Keith Macneir and his son were best friends.
The two talked on the phone at least once a week, often twice, Breslin Macneir, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. His father, a second-generation Fort Lauderdale resident, had traveled to Maine so that he could spend his 64th birthday with him.
The day of his father’s birthday, Breslin Macneir, his only son, took him down to Portland, where they stuffed themselves with seafood, walked around and talked about his plans to buy a duplex in Maine so he could live near his son.
“He called me ‘Champ,'” Macneir said. “He’d say, ‘it’s all for you, Champ.'”
On Wednesday night, the electrician took his father to Schemengee’s Bar and Grill in Lewiston so that he could meet his union brothers, telling him to wait there while they left for a quick union meeting.
“I had a beer with my dad, I told him I would be right back,” Macneir said. “I made sure he’d be okay.”
That was the last time they talked. He returned to the bar to get his father about an hour later, but a police officer was standing outside and wouldn’t let him in.
The details of the Lewiston mass shooting would later come to light: Keith Macneir was one of 18 victims killed, and one of eight at the restaurant, reports say. He died in the hospital, about 30 minutes after he was shot, his younger brother, Brian Macneir, said. The shooter, Robert Card, was found dead in a recycling facility after a manhunt that spanned multiple days.
Keith Macneir grew up in Fort Lauderdale, the middle son of three. He and his two brothers, Brian and Greg, went to Harbordale Elementary and Stranahan High School.
Their father, Donald Macneir, was an influential architect in Fort Lauderdale who designed many of the city’s homes and buildings, including the Embassy Suites on 17th Street, and served on the Board of Adjustment for over 20 years, according to Brian Macneir and an online obituary.
Donald Macnier’s own father, Keith’s grandfather, was also an architect who designed the bunkers that used to be down by the Fort Lauderdale airport, Brian Macneir said.
Friends and family members described Keith Macneir as jolly, an overthinker, welcoming, selfless, and a father who loved his son more than anything. He worked for decades as an architect, and spent his spare time cooking, boating and fishing.
“All he wanted to do was make sure everyone was having as much fun as we did,” Breslin Macneir said. “He wanted everyone to enjoy themselves.”
Growing up, Brian Macneir recalled, the brothers would go on all kinds of adventures, hunting in the Everglades or riding bikes to the beach, sometimes getting into trouble.
On more than one occasion, they’d roll their father’s architecture plans into a ball and put gunpowder in them, duct tape everything together, and light them off. One time, they put them under a palm tree and blew the tree out of the ground.
“I could go on and on with stories of what we did,” Brian Macneir said. “As kids we had the greatest life in world.”
But Keith eventually gained a more serious appreciation for architecture, and followed in his father’s footsteps, moving out to North Carolina, where he worked in an office in his father’s home.
When he decided he wanted a change, he started working in parks and recreation, first in Washington D.C., and then in St. John in the U.S Virgin Islands, where he served as the head of architectural design and park functioning, Brian Macneir said. He made sure they didn’t build anything that would interfere with sea turtles, and “had a love for animals.” While he lived there, Keith Macneir took in a dog he found on the island.
A friend of his who still lives on St. John, Kelly Larkin, recalled how warm he was.
“When I first moved here, he welcomed me into his home with open arms, before he even knew anything about me,” she said in a text. “He was a very special person & I truly have no words to express this entire situation.”
Cousin Krysti Macneir recalled him as “young at heart.” When he was living in St. John during Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that destroyed the island in 2017, she remembered calling to check in on him.
“He said to me, ‘we’re all here because we’re not all there,'” she said in a text. “It makes me laugh every time I think about it.”
Keith Macneir was just beginning to enjoy his retirement when he went up to Maine, his close friend, David Raymond, said. He spent his time in Homosassa, on the west coast of Florida, and had plans to buy a one-and-a-half bedroom in the Panhandle so his son could visit him, Brian Macneir said.
Raymond said that the two friends had plans to travel together because neither was married. The two met at Harbordale Elementary when Raymond was 10 and grew up together, then reconnected on Facebook later in life. They visited each other frequently, fishing and riding electric bikes up and down the beach, going to bars.
The two had just shared another visit before Keith Macneir went to Maine, grabbing some drinks and lunch after fishing, watching the tide come in. Raymond took a picture of him because the tide was so high, he thought it looked like he was walking on water.
“Next thing I know his son’s calling me,” Raymond said. “It just really took the wind out of my sails.”
Breslin was Keith’s “number one gold,” Brian Macneir said: “My brother was a loving person and the thing he loved most in the world was his son.”
The two would go sailing and drinking together, and played volleyball every Saturday on Keith’s beach for years, Breslin Macneir said. On Christmas and birthdays, they’d always visit each other.
Adventurous when he was younger, Keith Macneir became a little bit less so as he got older, his son said.
“He was kind of terrified of something like this happening if he traveled outside of the country,” Breslin Macneir said of the shooting. “… He wanted to go and see the marvels of the world, but with volatile situations constantly popping up on news, he would say, ‘I don’t want to get shot somewhere like that.’ And he did anyways, unfortunately.”
For Breslin Macneir, who lives in the town of Lisbon, 15 minutes away from where the shooting took place, every aspect of the tragedy surrounds his home and his life. The place where the killer dumped his car is also 15 minutes away from his home; the facility where they found his body is a place he had also been.
“This guy had to pass by my house to get away from killing my father,” he said.
Asked if he felt less safe now, Breslin Macneir said, “I’ve got my own guns, I’m not concerned about my own safety.”
Brian Macneir, who also owns guns, said he doesn’t believe guns are the problem. But he said the shooter should never have had one, and voiced anger at the failure of mental health professionals and those who knew him to stop him before it was too late. He lived in South Florida during the Parkland shooting, which he felt was similar: the shooters in both cases had raised red flags ahead of time.
Still, he said, he does understand the pain felt by gun violence protesters after the Parkland shooting in a way he couldn’t before. He heard about it at the time and never thought it would happen to him.
“You never know when someone’s gonna come in and change that whole little world you have in your hands,” Brian Macneir said, “and make it explode like an asteroid.”
In that world, Keith Macneir was going to travel with his best friend. He was going to finishing buying that property in the Panhandle, with an extra bedroom so his son could visit him.
He was going to spend his retirement boating and drinking at bars not unlike the one he went to on Wednesday. And he was going to find a duplex up where his son lived in Maine, a place he really liked, Brian Macneir said, “because it was so peaceful.”