Don Keefer recognized by Rotary Club on his 90th birthday
City Councilman John Hamon gave a presentation on Keefer’s long and rich life
– Thursday, at the Paso Robles Rotary Club, Paso Robles City Councilman John Hamon made a presentation to honor the rich life of Don Keefer and his service to the community and nation.
Hamon presented the following speech:
Today we want to take a few moments to honor a distinguished Rotarians 90th Birthday and recognize his service to this club, our town, and the many thousands who did not know him.
Don Keefer is a member of what our age group respectfully calls the “the Greatest Generation” Born in 1925, Don’s parents moved the family from the Oakland / Piedmont area to Paso Robles when his Father was transferred to manage the Tidewater Oil Co. Bulk Plant on 26th Street, he was 2 years old and has lived in Paso Robles ever since.
Later, Keefer’s father became assistant postmaster of the Paso Robles Post Office. Keefer’s mother gave piano lessons in their home on Vine Street and operated the Kiddie Kare Kottage, a daycare establishment.
One of his fondest memories as a kid was watching Pioneer Day horse races run down Pine Street past the train station, of course Pine Street wasn’t paved then, another was when he was 10 years old, listening to Paderewski practice the piano from grand old Hot Springs Hotel, where the Paso Robles Inn stands today.
Keefer attended schools in town, participated in sports, served as Student Body President his senior year, graduating from Paso Robles High School in 1942. One of his favorite memories was when the High School football team beat San Luis Obispo High School 7-6 in 1941 “after 17 years of losing to them.” He still says “That was a good day…”
Keefer studied at Pasadena Junior College from 1942-43. During World War Two he served in the US Army in Europe from 1943 to 1946.
Don was a member of Company “B,” 5th Infantry, 71st Division. His route through Europe lead him to be was awarded the Bronze Star for achievement in action against the enemy on 26, April 1945, in the vicinity of Auburg, Germany.
The military citation reads:
While guarding some forty German prisoners, Private Keefer was fired upon by enemy mortar fire. Some of the prisoners attempted to move individually toward nearby houses. To prevent this, Private Keefer forced them back at gunpoint and caused them to lie down in a compact group. Since there was no nearby shelter from which he might control the uneasy prisoners and despite approaching fire, Private Keefer remained standing in the open in order to fulfill his mission effectively. A direct hit was made by enemy mortar fire killing three and wounding three of the prisoners. Private Keefer by his strict attention to duty and the complete disregard for his personal safety, completed his mission under intense enemy bombardment and prevented his prisoners from dispersing and hiding in houses in the town of Auburg.
With the war ending a few weeks later, and with his love of music and his talented voice, Don stayed on in Germany joining a special group of soldiers, the 5th Infantry Chorus from June 1945 – Jan 1946. The group helped the healing process for the German people from years of terrible strife by performing in many churches and cathedrals across that country .Their music was heard by thousands including General George S Patton, who praised them for their “Fine music and excellent soldierly appearance”
After returning to Paso, Keefer’s first job was delivering ice, milk, bread and bakery goods for Boyd Shaw from Shandon to Avenal to Lost Hills. Keefer continued his love affair with music and served as choir director at Plymouth Congregational Church, while also working at JC Penny’s, the Camp Roberts Post Office and the Paso Robles Post Office.
He married Guyneth Putney in 1947. Together they had three girls and a boy.
In 1958, Keefer began working for the City of Paso Robles and had served as City Treasurer, Tax & License Collector, Assistant City Administrator and Secretary for the Planning Commission.
He worked for the city of Paso Robles for 25 years, finally serving as our city manager from 1971 to his retirement in 1983.
In 1962, he joined our Rotary Club. The reason for joining in his words was “to help give back to his community”. He served as our 51st President in 1973-4. In 1993, Don was appointed to the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission where he served for 10 years.
About 20 years ago and after the passing Guyneth, Don married his current love Patricia and the two continue to live happily in Paso Robles. He was also chosen to join an elite group of Paso Robles Pioneers as being the 2010 Pioneer Day Parade Grand Marshal.
Three years ago our Rotary Club raised over $4,200 to participate in the Honor Flight program. We were honored to send our last surviving WWII veteran, Don Keefer, and his escort, grandson Zack Taylor, son of Shelley and Wade Taylor, back to Washington DC to visit and reflect at memorials dedicated to The Greatest Generation.
Keefer has been a proud member of many distinguished organizations throughout his service in the area, including: the Masons, Scottish Rite, Shriners (where he served for 50 years), Rotary Club, Agri-Business Chamber of Commerce Committee, ACORN Committee, Paso Robles Trail Ride, Paso Robles High School Hall of Fame Committee and the American Legion.
From his days on his local paper route to knocking almonds from the trees of the family orchard, to watching Paso Robles’s epic Grand Hot Springs Hotel burn to the ground, and from returning home a war hero to the difficult job of managing the city of his youth, Don Keefer has truly lived Paso Robles.
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