Man burned while rescuing dog dies
(06-19) 09:31 PDT SAN FRANCISCO --
Michael James Keenan, who risked his life once before to save a stranger from drowning in the bay, died Monday at St. Francis Memorial Hospital of complications from burns he suffered while rescuing a friend's dog from a fire.
Mr. Keenan turned 44 in March while being treated at San Francisco General Hospital. He was moved to St. Francis for continuing care of burns he had sustained over 80 percent of his body in the Feb. 6 house fire on Russian Hill.
An artist and sometime carpenter and fashion designer, Mr. Keenan grew up in Maine but spent most of the past 20 years on the West Coast. He started a hip clothing line with friends that honored his home state, called Maine-iacs, featuring durable designs and vibrant colors.
"He was the kind of guy who would walk into any pub and walk out with 15 friends," said Owen Kelly, who knew Mr. Keenan since childhood.
In 2001, Mr. Keenan saw a car drive into the bay near the St. Francis Yacht Club. He jumped into the water, broke out a window with a heavy wrench and managed to pull a woman to safety. Her husband drowned.
"He will always be my hero for life," the rescued woman, Heather Rosnow-Laarif, said Monday.
Mr. Keenan had been house sitting for a friend on Bonita Street, waiting for renovations to be completed on his own apartment, when the early morning blaze broke out. He made it out of the townhouse safely before realizing the dog was still inside.
Mr. Keenan was a lifelong dog lover. He later told a longtime friend, Frank Hsieh, that he had thought he could get the dog quickly, but found he had to search a while before finding the 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Bobby, cowering under a bed.
The dog survived after treatment at a local animal hospital.
For several weeks, friends and family said they were optimistic about Mr. Keenan's chances. But he suffered an infection recently that set back his progress, and he had a stroke Sunday night, Kelly said.
Mr. Keenan was pronounced brain dead Monday. Even then, his heroics weren't quite through. He wanted to donate his organs, so doctors kept his body on life support for purposes of finding a match.
Friends and family said Mr. Keenan had a fondness for bungee jumping, Kung Pao chicken and camping trips in the mountains. James F. Keenan Jr., Mr. Keenan's stepbrother, said in a letter that was posted online during the hospital ordeal, "My brother is an artist and his worldly possessions fit inside the trunk of a car."
He could be counted on to show up for a friend's art exhibit, but had a joyous disregard for such things as schedules.
"He was a very sparkly being," said a friend, Stacie Krajchir of Los Angeles. "He had butterfly sense -- no time, no boundaries, no rules. If the sun was shining, he'd let the sun kind of lead him."
Publicity about Mr. Keenan's selflessness, and a blog started by his friends (michaeljameskeenan.blogspot.com), led to an outpouring of support and contributions to a fund set up to pay for his medical care.
Nearly all his surviving family members live in Maine or elsewhere on the East Coast, including his stepbrother; his father, James F. Keenan Sr.; stepmother Sandra Keenan; and an aunt and uncle, Bill and Barbara Boynton.
Mr. Keenan was heartbroken when his pit bull, a female named Charlie, died a year ago. Friends said they expect some part of Mr. Keenan's memorial service will be on the beach at Fort Funston, where he used to take Charlie for walks.
Keenan's loved ones are planning a memorial July 8 at Fort Funston. For more information, log on to
Michael James Keenan Memorial