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Longtime Area Mentor Saves A Life


It’s the only word I can think of, besides maybe reverence, to describe how I regard my friend of 40+ years, my high school classmate at Our Lady of Lourdes, my football teammate, my sons’ coach in high school … my brother, Sean Keenan.

So when the text notification went off on my cell early Sunday morning with a group message from Sean to myself, Ken Parchinski, Sean McElduff and Ray Ormerod – just a bunch of 50-something guys who went to high school together and played a little ball – we were neither shocked nor surprised.

“Guys,” Keenan wrote. “I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow I am donating a kidney. This has been months in the making. I’ll be in the hospital for about a week.”

Rattled? Sure we were.

Concerned? Absolutely.

Shocked or surprised? Not in the least.

Because that’s just who Sean Keenan is. And by now, most of this community in the Hudson Valley knows just who he is.

He is the guy who was the longtime head football coach at Millbrook High School, winning multiple league championships over 11 years and taking two teams to the state Final Four. He now coaches Our Lady of Lourdes JV. He helped coach varsity girls basketball at John Jay. Early on, Sean also coached youth football, as his beloved father did for many years. He coached my oldest boy at Millbrook, and coached my youngest for a year before he left.

It was Sean who stopped football practice at Millbrook two years ago, had every player board a school bus still in their practice gear and pads, and drove to the Sept. 11 Memorial in the town of Union Vale. There, they paid silent tribute to the day. Asked why he did it, he said “It was the right thing to do.”


Funny, it was those same exact words he used when we spoke on the phone Tuesday afternoon and I asked him how this came to be. How did it come to pass that he decided to donate a kidney to a man who was essentially a stranger months earlier?

Emiliano Guerriero is the brother-in-law of a teacher who happens to be a colleague of Sean’s in the Wappingers Central School District. An upstanding man himself, Emiliano is a respected businessman in Dutchess County who has been on dialysis, waiting, hoping, praying for a kidney for some time.

Enter Sean Keenan.

After speaking with his family about donating, and receiving their blessing, Sean started the lengthy process of determining whether he was a match. He was. The surgery was Monday, and they were both up and about to walk together in the hospital hallways on Tuesday at Albany Medical Center.

I asked him why.

I should have anticipated the answer.

“When we went to Lourdes, wasn’t our mantra ‘Always do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do?’” he said to me.

“I think I did it because that’s how my parents raised us and that’s what we learned at Lourdes,” he added. “I believe you put other people before you.”

And, then, the inevitable Keenan humor.

“Besides,” he said, “I think I get more satisfaction out of it knowing he’s an Italian who now has an Irish kidney.”

I remain in awe of my friend. In 2012, he shuttled water and supplies from here in the county down to Rockaway Beach when Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. In 2014, when I lost my leg, he was the first person at the hospital before I started rehab and brought me a Millbrook football helmet signed by himself, the coaches and all the players. A couple of years later, when I went through a divorce and I had my two boys and wondered if I could do this by myself, it was Sean who sat me down – and my children – and said, “You got this” in a way that instilled confidence. When we downsized into a smaller, older home that did not have central air conditioning during a particularly hot summer two years ago, he said he had a friend who wasn’t using a window AC and was bringing it over. When he got here, it was wedged in Styrofoam inside a tightly sealed box, stapled shut, with yellow bands around it to help carry.

“This is not from a friend. You bought this, didn’t you?” I asked.

“You and the boys stay cool, brother,” he said, turning to walk away as I was overwhelmed with tears.

This is just him. He is the most selfless, gracious person I know and he sets a standard and serves as a role model, every day in his classroom and every practice and game on the field.

“You know, after watching my parents die, I just said to myself that I was going to help someone in any way that I could,” he said speaking of his father, who passed away in 2017, and his mother, who died earlier this year. “Emiliano is just a true warrior with what he has had to endure the last two years.”

My respect and admiration for this man know no boundaries.

If you ever look for inspiration, you look Sean Keenan’s way.

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