Deno is 70, hip, hip, hooray – Story and pics by Marie Pietersz, Melbourne
Denver (Deno) Keegel, popular identity within Sri Lankan social circles, celebrated his milestone birthday on 15th March at the Grand on Princes in Mulgrave.You could be forgiven for thinking you were at a Collingwood finals dinner or awards night, with the venue elaborately decorated in Collingwood colours and memorabilia and 250 guests dressed in the black and white theme for the occasion requested by birthday boy and ardent Collingwood fan, Denver.
The party kicked off with a grand entrance by Denver dressed in club colours to a rendition of the club song. Laughter followed roaring applause from guests when spotted with Denver in a sea of black and white, were three of his grandchildren wearing the colours of rival club, Hawthorn, adding to the fun and excitement of the night’s activities to come.
Denver was born in Colombo in 1949 and following his schooling at Carey College, joined the Royal Ceylon Air Force in 1970 at the age of 21. He married the love of his life, Patricia (Patty) Gray in 1975, and migrated to Melbourne in 1976. In Australia he held many top management and key personnel roles in tyre company Goodyear, footwear designer J Robins & Sons Pty Ltd, and aged care specialist Dial an Angel, retiring from full time employment in 2018.
Denver and Patty’s family grew in Australia and continues to grow, with two children, Melissa and Daniel and five grandchildren, Declan, Lucas and Jett (Daniel and Tara) and Joceylon and Jovan (Melissa and Darren Junkeer) and another on the way.
Guests at Denver’s 70th birthday celebrations were entertained by a number of guest singers backed by popular band for the night, Next Generation. Singers included Derrick Junkeer (also compere) and dancers, daughter Melissa, and friends Reg Bartholomeusz and Esric Jackson, not least of all, the birthday boy himself.
Among the other notable items of the night was the sumptuous buffet by Tony and Tania Walles, Collingwood ice carving by Desmond Foulstone, elaborate slide show by brother Travis Keegel (U.K.) and very large screen back-drop designed by Ishan Bahar (Sri Lanka). There was not only one birthday cake, but two large ones, made and decorated in the Collingwood themes by Cake Point.
Speakers for the night included brother Gordon Keegel (all the way from Mill Park, LOL), Indrani Keegel (presiding over grace and thanksgiving), son Daniel, daughter Melissa, and close friends Bertie Ekenaike and Joyce Senn. There was even a special Collingwood chair for Denver to sit in and savour the adulations of the speakers.
In his speech, Denver thanked guests, helpers and entertainers, visiting family from Queensland, and venue management Jude de Silva and staff. The air was charged with emotion when Denver shared his happily married status and acknowledged his loving and dedicated wife of forty-four years, Patty, and was visibly moved when she presented him with a gift of an airline ticket to Sri Lanka and England to visit his family.
From many accounts, a wonderful and fun time was had by all, who I am sure will join me in congratulating Denver and wishing him a happy and healthy septuagenarian decade. Happy 70th birthday, Denver!.