BILL KEOUGH was an old-time newspaperman to whom a deadline was sacrosanct.

When he was the editor of a couple of small newspapers in recent years, he taught the younger staffers how to write leads, get the facts and meet deadlines "no matter what."

In his final days in a hospice bed, Bill was still intent on meeting the deadline for the legal newsletter he was publising. He had a laptop and a printer by his bed and he met that final deadline.

William T. Keough, onetime columnist for the old Evening Bulletin, part-time copy editor for the Daily News renowned for his clever headlines, died Friday of complications of melanoma. He was 74 and lived in Chalfont.

Bill was a charming combination of cynical newsman, comedian and romantic.

In his late 60s, he had a standup comedy routine on the Chuckles circuit, performing at area clubs.

"He was hilarious," said his wife of 49 years, the former Carol Kopsay. "He joked mostly about himself and being old."

Bill had roles in student movies and a small part in the movie, "Invincible," about the Eagles player Vince Papale.

"He was shown booing," his wife said. "He was only on the screen a couple of minutes doing what the tyical Philadelphia fan does."

When he learned he had advanced cancer, Bill had a final request. He wanted to travel to Venice, hire a gondola and kiss his wife under the Bridge of Sighs.

"It's my dying wish," he told his wife. The legend is that if you kiss your loved one under that bridge, you will remain lovers for all eternity. So they went, hired the gondala and kissed under the bridge.

"He could be sardonic and cynical, but he was the most romantic of romantics," his wife said. Bill joined the Bulletin in 1970 as a rewriteman and later started a column, "Bill Keough's City Beat."

"He loved the neighborhoods," his wife said. "He had a strong affinity for neighborhood projects and places. He helped raise money for sick kids. He would put their stories in his column and readers would respond. He was given a lot of silver loving bowls by people he had helped. He tried to do good."

But when the editors refused to run a column he had written in the early '80s during a gasoline shortage, advising people to save on gas by letting their cars coast, he quit.

"He was trying to be funny," his wife said, "but the editors said they couldn't run something like that. The subject was too serious."

Bill became editor of the South Philly Review and the Welcomat, and then went to work for a legal newsletter, Andrews News Litigation Reports, covering the courts and getting other news of interest to lawyers.

After learning the business, Bill started his own "Keough Inc.," which he ran until his final illness.

While working as a reporter for the former United Press, he covered the Newark riots in 1967.

"His windshield was smashed with a broken wine bottle, and he stank of tear gas," his wife said. "I had a time getting it out of his clothes."

Bill Keough was born in Boston and grew up in Milton, Mass., where he went to high school. He graduated from Michigan State University School of Journalism in 1958.

He started his newspaper career on a paper in Wapakopneta, Ohio, then worked for the Lima News in Lima, Ohio, before moving East and getting a job on the Long Island Press.

He went from there to United Press International in the Newark, N.J., office, where he covered the riots.

He worked part-time on the copy desk of the Daily News. "He loved to write headlines," Carol said.

Then-editor Zack Stalberg would tear off a headline he liked and scrawl on it, "Good head. Who?"

"He would bring those home," his wife said. "He treasured them."

The only headline she could remember was after the Celtics had swamped the Sixers, when he wrote, "Shamrock."

Bill was a 30-year member of the Philadelphia Pickwick Club, which celebrates Charles Dickens' famous novel, "The Pickwick Papers," at regular gatherings where members assume the roles of characters in the book and discuss it.

Bill attended the last meeting on Dec. 10. One of his sons took him there in a wheelchair.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, Bradley and Jeffrey; two sisters, Dorothy Domanowski and Patricia Gladu; four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Services: Private.

Contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 700 Horizon Circle, Suite 201, Chalfont PA 18914.