CANTON, MASS. (WHDH) - A Boston police officer who was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive in the snow outside a home in Canton had been taking care of his deceased sister’s children, according to his family.

Boston Police Officer John O’Keefe, 46, of Canton, was found unresponsive in a snowbank outside a home on Fairview Road early Saturday morning, the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office said.

His girlfriend, 41-year-old Karen A. Read, of Mansfield, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of manslaughter, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle collision causing death, and motor vehicle homicide in connection with his death.

O’Keefe faced unspeakable tragedy in his life when he lost his sister, Kristin O’Keefe Furbush, to a brain tumor and his brother-in-law, Stephen Furbush, to a heart attack in a matter of months. The pair left behind two young children whom O’Keefe took guardianship of.

“He took his life and put it to one side for the kids,” said neighbor Jack Hughes. “How many people do you know who do that?”

Hughes was neighbors with the Furbush family in Canton and actively involved in the Ponkapoag Civic Association with the couple. He said Officer O’Keefe moved into the kids’ home and “he created a new environment for them so they could have a normal, fun life.”

In a statement, O’Keefe’s family remembered him as a dedicated police officer and a family man who would go out of his way to help those in need.

“We were so fortunate to have him as a part of our lives. When John’s sister passed away, and then her husband did as well a short time later, John welcomed the opportunity to raise his beloved niece and nephew and build a home and a life around their needs,” O’Keefe’s family said. “People talk about someone who would give you the shirt off their back but that was truly who John was, and it is heartbreaking for us to suddenly be talking about him in the past tense.”

O’Keefe’s family added, “We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received but we ask for privacy at this time, and will have nothing further to say, as we mourn this unbearable loss.”

Prosecutors noted that O’Keefe was found suffering from cuts to his arms, swollen eyes, a skull fracture, and hypothermia had also set in.

His close bond with the children was even mentioned during Read’s arraignment.

“At 4:30 in the morning, my client is placing multiple calls to the victim — in this case her boyfriend — wondering where he is, why he hasn’t come home and getting annoyed with him because his niece of whom he was a guardian had to go to bed without saying good night to him,” her attorney David Yanetti said.

Mourned by his fellow officers in blue, his community, his family and especially the two kids he treated as his own.

“These poor kids have just lost their third parent. There are no words to describe this,” said Hughes.

His death remains under investigation.

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