MY FATHER'S HEART:
Steve McKee is six-feet-eight-inches tall. Say you were meeting him for the first time and he were sitting down and he stood up to shake your hand, that’s the first thing you would notice. He’s tall! Real tall. You might ask – you can’t help yourself — if he played basketball. He would tell you yes, sort of. He played at Allentown College of St. Francis De Sales in Pennsylvania, a brand new school way back when that is now called De Sales University. But he didn’t play at York Catholic High School (also in Pennsylvania) and, well, even though he’s fifty-five years old now and he graduated from YC in 1970, he still wishes he had.
Steve spent eight years in Alaska – and he has no regrets about that. He went up there originally after college with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where he taught at an Eskimo-Indian boarding school in way-out southwest Alaska, just off the Yukon River and not far from the Bering Sea. Why Alaska? “Everyone needs a place to be young and stupid,” Steve says, “And in Alaska he succeeded fabulously on both counts.” From the boarding school in St. Mary’s, Alaska, Steve moved to Fairbanks where he lived for four more years, returning to school at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to get about 24 credits in journalism classes.
By then he was married, to Noreen D’Ottavio, a friend of Steve’s sister during their York Catholic High School days. Of course, back then Noreen was a senior and Steve was a freshman, and never the twain did meet. Not until they were both out of college and Noreen was working for Steve’s mother at a social-work agency in York did they meet, and sparks flew and the rest was history. They have been living in Brooklyn, New York, since 1982 – Fairbanks to the Big Apple, there’s a transition! They have a son, Patrick, who is now seventeen.
They left Alaska so that Steve could write his first book, which came to be titled “The Call of the Game.” Steve roamed the country attending sports events – from the Super Bowl to the National tiddlywinks Championship; 54 in all – and he wrote a travel book published by McGraw Hill. A few years late he wrote a second book, “Coach” an oral history of the sideline profession, published by Stackpole Books.
Steve’s third book, from Da Capo Lifetime Books and published in 2008, is “My Father’s Heart: A Son’s Journey,” a memoir of his father who died of a heart attack in 1969. John McKee was 50; Steve McKee was 16. It was just the two of them at home that night. In 2005, after a lifetime spent trying to avoid his father’s fate, Steve learned that he, too, has serious heart disease.
“My Father’s Heart” is based on a pair of articles that Steve wrote for The Wall Street Journal, where he has worked since 1994. He is currently an editor on the Journal’s Global Copy Desk. He was for a time the first sports editor of the Journal’s Friday Weekend Journal, and in 2001-2002 he was the original writer of the online Journal’s popular sports column, “The Daily Fix.” Steve was also the sports columnist for the Journal’s daily coverage of of the 2002 Winter Olympics from Salt Lake city.
Steve works out – a lot. His device of choice for yeas now has been the rowing machine. He also lifts weights, though they aren’t very heavy. He has also completed a triathlon with his son, Patrick. Steve likes to read – nonfiction, mostly; lots of history – the Civil War; World War II. His latest read is David Halberstam’s “The Coldest Winter,” about the Korean “conflict” in the early 1950s. He also recently completed the Horatio Hornblower 11-book series by C.S. Forster (took Steve seven years, reading only in the summers at Noreen’s Dad’s beach house at the Jersey Shore); he is now sailing through the A&E eight-movie miniseries on DVD.
Steve and Noreen (and eventually Patrick) have maintained longstanding friendships with many friends over many years. Friends from the Alaska days; friends from their first years in NYC, 25 years ago. Every year Steve and Noreen throw a Christmas party for those New York Friends (and now their kids) who left the city. Later in the winter these same friends gather at a farm in New Hampshire for a huge conflagration of a bonfire. They are the two best nights of the year.