Amherst Magazine
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GEORGE E. KEITH, JR. (1936-2007)

In spring 2007 George Keith submitted this biographical sketch for the 50th Reunion Classbook:

“I don't seem to have many exciting things to
report. My life just seems go along.

If you doubt global warming, just go to Greenland and see the glaciers retreating.

“My most interesting activity has been five trips to Greenland over the last seven years. I find Greenland fascinating: small towns with brightly colored houses and endless ice and glaciers. Much of it is beautiful. lf you doubt global warming, just go to Greenland and see the glaciers retreating. Some have retreated over ten miles in the last decade. New islands are being 'discovered' when the ice melts and areas which were thought to be part of the mainland are found to be islands instead. They call these 'warming islands.' lt is not my intent to turn this into a political diatribe, but the problem is serious.

“I continue to work on printer software. We sell to printer manufacturers; we convert the garbage which comes out of the computer into the dots on the paper. It is certainly a niche market. I have told Art that I am not thinking of retirement, but now I think about it on Monday mornings.

“My wife has retired and spends her time traveling and visiting our four grandsons, two from each of our sons. Women are hard to come by in our family. Marriage seems to be the only way.

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“Beyond that, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that our daughter-in-law is expecting our fifth grandson in May, 2007.

“The bad news is that I have lung cancer. I am undergoing chemotherapy, but it is not working too well so far. I do not know if I will make the reunion.”

George sadly died soon after he wrote this letter. But its tone is vintage George. It recalls the quiet, decent, somewhat private person we knew in college and suggests how these qualities carried over into adulthood. George became a quiet, decent, rock-solid citizen and pillar of his community. He always characterized his life as unexciting. Yet he could surprise with truly unusual and unpredictable interests.

At Amherst George majored in physics, was technical director of WAMF, house manager of Chi Phi, and a member of the Glee Club. But he was also an accomplished organist and a creative entrepreneur. George ran a birthday cake service to enable parents to get a cake to their sons on just the right date.

My life is unexciting.” Yet George could surprise with truly unusual and unpredictable interests.

 

imageFollowing advanced degrees in electrical engineering at MIT, George spent his entire career in computer hardware and software design. He served in the choir of his church in Verona, N.J., where he was president and treasurer of the congregation.

He was similarly active in the local Boy Scouts and the father of two Eagle Scouts, and maintained lifelong interests in baseball and bridge. In conversations with classmates, he seemed to take his engineering accomplishments and community work for granted, and instead spoke with animation about the beauty and lessons of Greenland.

George is survived by his wife, Virginia, whom he dated at Mount Holyoke while in college, sons Andrew and Jonathan, their wives, and now – yes – five grandsons. As George characteristically had put it, “Women are hard to come by in our family.”

George Eldon Keith Jr. died July 14, 2007, from lung cancer.

 

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George and Ginnie with (l. to r.) daughter-in-law
Lauren and son Jonathan Keith, and Kirsten and
Andrew Keith, Sept. 23, 1995
May 2007, George with two of his grandsons, Jason
and Tommy

George Eldon Keith, Jr. '58

George Keith died on July 14, 2007, from lung cancer.

George was born in Boston, MA, on May 16, 1936, to George Eldon ’27 and Helen Louise (Pruet) Keith.  He prepared for Amherst at Milton Academy.  A physics major at Amherst, he earned his “1958” in soccer, was a member of Chi Phi, where he was house manager, was in the Glee Club, and was technical director at WAMH.  Gordy Groff remembers George as being quiet and private but very kind and caring, a person who would do anything for you.  Ross Bassett remembers George the same way, saying he was “a very decent guy, who didn’t say a bad word about anybody.” George had a lifelong interest in music.  Lou Eastman recalls that he played the organ and would listen to recordings of performances by Albert Schweitzer.  Indeed, Gordy says that he was a consummate expert at the organ and that whenever George would go to Johnson Chapel to practice, he (Gordy) would follow along just for the sheer joy of listening.

Another of George’s activities at Amherst was running a birthday cake service.  George advertised the service to the parents of students, the parents would order the cake, and George would arrange for the baking and do the delivering.  According to Gordy, George would store the cakes prior to delivery under the bed in his room at Chi Phi, a practice that once led to disaster.  One day, Gordy, Ross Bassett, and a third person were roughhousing in the room and landed on George’s bed and broke it so that it ended up on the floor.  Unfortunately, there were cakes underneath, which were utterly destroyed.  George, upon his return, was completely distraught.  After that, he stored the cakes elsewhere.  (Actually, I remember the cake service.  My parents had ordered one for my birthday, December 17, but it did not arrive when promised.  After the Christmas vacation, my roommate, Jim Karet, was asked if I still wanted a cake, to which he gave an emphatic “no.”  I wonder if my original cake was one of those that had been destroyed in the roughhousing.)

After Amherst, George went on to MIT, where he received a masters and another advanced degree in electrical engineering in 1962.  He worked in the engineering field until his retirement in May of 2007.  For the last twelve years, he was a software engineer at Electronics for Imaging in Parsippany, NJ, and for over thirty years before that worked as an electrical engineer doing computer hardware design at Singer Kearfott in Totowa, NJ.  George was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

George was a longtime member of the First Congregational Church of Verona, NJ, having served in the choir and as president and treasurer of the congregation.  He was also active in the Boy Scouts; he was a member of BSA Troop 1 of North Caldwell, NJ, and was the father of two Eagle Scouts.  He had a lifelong interest in baseball and in bridge.  In addition, a great interest was the far northern parts of the earth, and he traveled there frequently, sometimes with his wife, Virginia, and sometimes alone.  He had a particular fascination with Greenland.  A few years back, co-class secretary Art Powell asked what it was about Greenland that attracted him so much, and he said, “It’s different.  I like it.  It is sparsely populated, and it has lots of ice, pretty mountains, and Viking ruins.”

George is survived by his wife, Virginia L. Keith (a Mount Holyoke graduate whom George dated while at Amherst); his mother, Helen P. Keith; his sons, Andrew G. Keith and Jonathan E. Keith and their wives; a sister, Priscilla K. Kirby; and five grandsons.  To these, the Class extends its condolences.  Services were held at the First Congregational Church of Verona on July 21, 2007.

—John E. G. Bischof ’58

 

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