The passing of Darcy McKeough on Nov. 29 ended his personal journey through this world, but for those willing to pay attention to what his life taught us, his influence will live on.
His obituary made no mention of his life in community service, business, politics, or philanthropy, yet he excelled in all those areas and more.
He didn’t want or need the spotlight, stepping to the forefront only when it was necessary. For that, he stands in stark contrast to many of what we refer to today as our “leaders.”
As opposed to the current era in which public figures rocket to legendary status in a heartbeat, Darcy built his legacy one brick at a time. He held himself to a higher standard.
He was born into a family which believed duty and service were a way of life. He was a gentleman, but in the vernacular of hockey, he had elbows and knew when to use them.
Darcy held several cabinet positions, including those of treasurer, municipal affairs, and energy. He could be counted on to bring stability and finesse in each area, earning him the nickname “The Duke of Kent.”
I knew the name McKeough from an early age since my parents’ company, Blake’s Plumbing and Heating, were regular customers of McKeough Sons, the firm founded by Darcy’s father.
The W. Darcy McKeough Floodway opened in 1984 and commemorates his 15 years in provincial government. The largest flood diversion project in Ontario, it diverts flood water around Wallaceburg, ending the catastrophic flooding that decimated the town several times in the 19th and 20th centuries.
When I became editor of the Chatham Daily News, (when that publication had a larger measure of standing and influence in the community) I would occasionally receive calls from Darcy concerning the pressing issue of the day.
He never attempted to change my mind or force any political affiliation on me. The calls were rooted in concern for his community. I always came away with a broader perspective than I had before.
I was surprised when in the mid 1990s, I received an invitation to a small dinner party at Darcy’s home, Bally McKeough. The occasion was a visit by Prince Michael of Kent, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth and Colonel-in-Chief of the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment.
I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but I was dining not only with an official member of the Royal Family but also a man whose service made him a figure of great admiration, our own unofficial “Duke of Kent,” the Hon. W. Darcy McKeough.