Eight Bells: Burt Keenan
Published on April 26th, 2021
Burt Henry Keenan died peacefully in Hilton Head, South Carolina on April 22, 2021, at the age of 81. He was born in New Orleans, the son of the late Mary Lee Baker Keenan and Walter Cook Keenan, Jr.
Burt attended Audubon School, Isidore Newman School, and Alcee Fortier High School before receiving his BA and MBA from Tulane University.
A lifelong entrepreneur and venture capital investor, Burt began his career with George Engine Company before moving with his family to Lafayette where he founded Offshore Logistics, which grew to become one of the leading service companies to the offshore oil exploration and production industry worldwide.
After Offshore Logistics, Burt returned to New Orleans and joined Chaffe & Associates, where he was instrumental in the success of companies including Telescan, Independent Energy and Compressco. In addition to his own ventures, Burt mentored numerous entrepreneurs and innovators in ventures ranging from documentary films to technology start-ups.
Burt was an accomplished sailor and campaigned a series of custom-built racing sailboats crewed mostly by his friends from Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans, LA) and the Gulf Coast.
His first commission, Southerly, set a course record in the 1975 Isla Mujeres Race which stood for many years. Later, with his three racing Acadias, Burt sailed to victory in the 1978 Newport-Bermuda Race and 1980 Southern Ocean Racing Circuit, and scored highly in the storm-wracked 1979 Fastnet Race.
These and other major event victories earned Burt and Acadia’s crew the coveted World Ocean Racing Championship title in 1980.
After taking a break from racing in the early 1980s, Burt built a cruising-oriented Acadia which he sailed throughout the North Atlantic basin, from Labrador to Trinidad and almost everywhere in between. Burt never stopped racing, however, and rounded out his trophy collection from important ocean races by winning the 2007 Marblehead to Halifax Race overall.
Burt was member of the Boston Club, Louisiana Club and Stratford Club, along with several carnival organizations. He was a member of Southern Yacht Club, Pass Christian Yacht Club, Camden (Maine) Yacht Club, New York Yacht Club, South Carolina Yacht Club and the Storm Trysail Club. He supported Tulane University and helped to establish the Gail Keenan Art Center in Long Beach, Mississippi.
With a laugh, a smile, and a twinkle in his eye, Burt was beloved by multiple generations of family members, sailing friends and business associates. Known for his genuine interest in people from all walks of life, Burt will be missed by everyone who was fortunate to have been touched by his sense of humor, generosity and commitment to lifelong friendships.
Burt was preceded in death by his brother Walter Cook Keenan III and his wife Gail Perrin Keenan. He is survived by his wife, Carol Schwaner Keenan; his daughters Lucille Baker Keenan (Drew Bruch) and Kristen Cook Keenan; his son, Michael Crawford Keenan (Carmel); and stepsons Harrod Blank and Beau Blank. He is also survived by his grandchildren Bennett Keenan, Abigail Keenan, David Keenan, Audrey Goldfield, Cora Lee Goldfield and Theo Bruch, and his wife from a previous marriage, Velma Crawford.
Internment at Metairie Cemetery followed by a celebration of Burt’s life will be held in New Orleans on May 18, 2021. In lieu of flowers, Burt’s family suggests making a charitable contribution to your local charter school or community sailing organization.