STM Reflection


The Very First Wedding in Saint Thomas More Chapel

Kate & Donald Keefe's WeddingThe very first wedding in the Chapel was that of Kate Stevens Hemingway (1914-2003) and Donald Foran Keefe, Yale ‘38, Yale Law’42.  (1917-1984).

Kate Keefe told me on numerous occasions that she was the first bride at Saint Thomas More.  She was very proud of that fact -- it is even mentioned in her obituary!  She and Don were married on April 8, 1942, with Reverand T. Lawrason Riggs presiding.  R. Sargent Shriver Jr. was one of their ushers.  In the minutes of the Board of Trustees of the St. Thomas More Corporation, Father Riggs reported,  “that the first wedding in the Chapel was celebrated on Wednesday, April 8, 1942, being the marriage of Lieut.(j.g.) Donald F. Keefe, U.S. N. R. of the Class of 1938 Academic and 1942 Law and Miss Kate Hemingway.”

In a letter to Father Richard Russell, dated April 1989, Kate wrote about her wedding.  “As you know, I was a very recent convert and a “peregrina” with no local parish attachment, and so permission was given by Bishop McAuliffe for our marriage in the Chapel. Thus, we were the first to be married there, and, except for military weddings during WWII, I believe the only ones married there by Father Riggs who died a year later. He had given me instruction during the previous summer and, also my first communion a month before the wedding.”   

For those who didn’t know Kate, she was a wonderful lady.  She was a 1937 Vassar College graduate, Phi Beta Kappa, an avid tennis player, and on the Boards of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, The Children's Center, the New Haven Colony Historical Society and the Grove Street Cemetery. She also volunteered at the St. Thomas More Soup Kitchen, which is where I got to know Kate, and her sister-in-law Marjorie Hemingway.  Kate wrote STM’s first booklet about the engraved windows in the Chapel.  Her husband Don was an attorney, at Tyler, Cooper, Grant, Bowerman and Keefe in New Haven.  Don was the son of Arthur Keefe, who served as President of the Board of Trustees of the St. Thomas More corporation and  who is remembered in the first window from the front on the right side of the Chapel. 

The picture of their wedding is taken from the choir loft.  Kate noted it was how “the Chapel as it looked before Vatican II.”  She loved the Chapel and the St. Thomas More community, and was very proud to be the first bride!


With thanks to Sarah Woodford, Director of the Vincent Library at STM for sharing the photo and Kate's letter.

Jill Martin '90 M.A.

Jill Martin is a member of the STM Community.