Dave McKee gets ready for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Lemont. | File photo
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:42AM
There was always the bagpipe music.
It’s what brought together Dave and Kitty McKee, and it’s what would end up providing the soundtrack to their lives together.
The Beverly couple would have been married 45 years in September. But Mr. McKee, 85, died Thursday at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn from complications related to dementia, his widow said Friday.
A longtime pipe major for the famed Chicago Stock Yard Kilty Band, there’s a tribute to Mr. McKee on the group’s web page.
Kitty Kirk met Dave McKee in 1964 when she took her younger brother to a band practice, looking for a teacher. They had a few dates, but Kitty was focused on teaching. That changed when they ran into each other in December 1967 and began dating seriously.
Countless residents of Chicago’s Beverly community, where the couple raised four sons, knew of Mr. McKee’s prowess at playing the pipes. Many of them, as well as those from points beyond, came to the McKee house on Winchester Avenue through the years to learn from a master.
In November 2006, the McKees were one of the couples featured in a year-long “Meant to Be” series that ran in the Daily Southtown, predecessor to the SouthtownStar. In the story, Mr. McKee said he found it amusing that someone would knock on his door each January, hoping to learn to play the bagpipes in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
“It takes a year, at least,” he said.
More than a few of those pipe players may have cast votes for the McKees, who in January 2007 won a contest for the most memorable “how we met” story.
The romance never stopped, for each other or for the music, Kitty said Friday, adding that two of their sons are bagpipers and two others are drummers.
“It’s made the family close. The boys have a wonderful connection with their dad. They knew him as a dad, a band member and a friend,” she said.
“He was a natural teacher,” she said of her husband, noting that he worked as a DARE officer for 12 years in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department after he retired following 35 years in sales with Budweiser. “He taught (the pipes) every Tuesday night in our house our entire married life. We should have kept a list of all the people. It was fun.”
Kitty said she loves bagpipe music and never tires of it. She was worried the music would be too loud when their first son, Dave Jr., was a baby but all was well.
“Dave had a prayer he’d say before he played. He was very spiritual. He was a man’s man,” she said.
Kitty has received many phone calls of condolences since Dave died.
“We’re really blessed. Dave had such a wonderful life, but it was time,” she said.
Mr. McKee served in the Army during the Korean War. He got hooked on the bagpipes because his father played. In that 2006 story, Mr. McKee called it “stirring music.”
He suffered from dementia in recent years, and his health took a turn for the worse Monday, Kitty said.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 2929 W. 87th St., Evergreen Park. A funeral Mass will be said at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Christ the King Church, 9235 S. Hamilton Ave., Chicago. Burial will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.