you do encapsulate the life of this man. It’s impossible!
Earl Keefe |
GROWING UP ON THE FARM:
James Earl Keefe came into this world on Wednesday, April 2nd,
1913, on the Keefe Homestead in Kinkora, Prince Edward Island,
Canada. He was the 7th of 16 children born to John Keefe &
Angelina Monaghan. Earl was indeed a lucky baby too as there was
an outbreak of diphtheria the year he was born. Indeed, three
of his sisters, Eileen, Elizabeth and Margaret, had all died as
a result of this disease. Living and working on a farm in the
early part of the 20th century wasn’t easy and eventually,
Earl had to leave school to work on the farm full time.
THE RAILS & GOING TO WAR: Earl toiled on his father’s
farm until the late 30s when he joined the Canadian National Railroad
to work as a cook on the railway. He traveled across this great
land of ours many times before returning to PEI in 1942 to enlist
in the army. Earl's buddies were all signing up to go and fight
the good fight and he no less than them, would do his part to
protect our nations freedoms. He sailed across the Atlantic Ocean
on the Queen Elizabeth and later would tell stories of the huge
waves and terrible weather experienced during the trip.
seemed proud of
fact that he was one of the few who managed to avoid getting seasick
on the rough trip and in fact, he didn’t even miss a single
meal. Earl was part of the Royal Canadian Electrical
Engineers who were stationed in England until the end of the war.
This group was responsible for keeping all the army vehicles
good repair. Earl never talked much about the war as most likely
it brought back bad memories. However, one story he did tell was
about the "Buzz" bombs. Buzz bombs were German unmanned
airplanes filled with explosives which had just enough fuel to
fly to England where they would then crash and explode. Earl was
stationed in a tent camp not far from Borden, England. Many nights
he would hear these deadly Buzz bombs flying overhead and would
pray that he wouldn't hear the sudden silence of their engines
cutting out as they passed over his camp. When
the war was finally over, Earl served in Holland for nine months
before heading home in 1946.
THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS & RAISING A FAMILY: Earl's mother
had passed away in 1938 and his father died in 1946. After the
war, Earl went back to help out on the family farm. Around this
time, Earl started to date a young lady named Mary Helena Gallant.
She was the daughter of John C. Gallant and Helena Shreenan and
her parents had moved to Kinkora from Newton, P.E.I. Mary was
16 years younger than Earl and in fact, it's family lore that
Earl had actually babysat Mary and her siblings in his earlier
teenage years. Earl and Mary were married in Kinkora on November
17th, 1953. Earl was 40 years old and Mary was 24. They settled
just a couple of miles from Kinkora in Middleton, a rural community
near Kinkora. They had bought a 100 acre farm with a farmhouse,
a barn and a couple of outbuildings, 60 acres of which was farmable
land and 40 acres of which was wooded area. Earl and Mary soon
celebrated the birth of their first child, a girl named Linda
Marie on September 2nd, 1954….then came James Earl on July
19th, 1956….Charles Elmer on May 22nd, 1958….Anne
Marie on October 19th, 1959…..and Michelle Helena on January
25th, 1962. Earl farmed the land full time, growing crops and
raising livestock. In 1952 he started to work also for the Federal
Government's Department of Agriculture as a potato inspector.
Along with running the family farm, this was a job he would maintain
until he retired in 1976.
RETIREMENT YEARS: With
children grown and moved on, Earl and Mary decided that their
homestead was simply too large for them to maintain any longer,
so in 1984, they built a little house directly across the road
from the farm where they lived until Earl's death in 2001.
In his later retirement years, Earl always kept busy. He was constantly
working at something and eventually took up carpentry on a full
time basis. Over the years Earl had built quite a few glider rockers
and pendulum clocks. He also enjoyed displaying his handiwork
in local parades and indeed would even construct the "floats"
used to carry his wares on the parade routes. He had a lifelong
love of horses as well and always seemed to have at least one
around. When his children were younger he had bought them a pony
which they named Jackie, which of course brought a lot of enjoyment
to the entire family.
Earl with his horse, Kelly, ready to go for a buggy ride.
PEI's numerous beaches, Earl did
not swim and in fact due to an incident where he almost drowned
in a swimming pool in Holland, he
actually disliked going into the water. He
did enjoy deep sea fishing however, especially with his grandchildren.
In fact, he often would get a bite on his line and casually pass
it to one of his grandkids just to hold on to...and of course
they would end up catching the fish to their amazement and excitement.
Earl took great pleasure in making others happy. He liked to give
of himself. He was a quiet, humble man who
go out of his way to help someone whether they were family, friend
or stranger. One winter day, a traveling gentleman got his car
stuck in a snowbank on the Kinkora road near Earl’s house
& Earl compassionately took the stranger into his own home.
and Mary Keefe with their children and grandchildren in 1999.
Standing L-R: Ashley McGuire, Steve Trainor, Michelle McGuire,
Anne Keefe, Charles Keefe, James Keefe, Linda Keefe-Trainor, Jacklyn
Keefe & Frank Trainor Jr
Sitting L-R: Mary Keefe and Earl Keefe
In Front L-R: Chad Keefe, Casey McGuire, Joshua Adams, Jimmy &
Irish, Earl Keefe enjoyed an occasional drink…or, a "smile"
as he liked to call it & rumor has it that he indeed made
some of his very own “smiles" …some potent stuff
that could peel paint off walls and was guaranteed to prevent
Earl had enjoyed good health most of his life until 1985 when
he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He managed to beat that
scare however & would live another sixteen years.
1981, Earl’s first grandchild, Franklyn Earl Trainor was
born. More grandchildren eventually arrived to enrich the lives
of Earl and Mary Keefe. Steven Hugh Trainor in 1982, Jacklyn Ann
Keefe in 1986, James Earl Keefe in 1987, Casey John McGuire in
1987, Chad Charles Keefe in 1986, Ashley Anne McGuire in 1988,
Patrick James Keefe in 1989 and Joshua Dale Adams in 1993.
Earl was overjoyed in 1988 when his oldest son, James, decided
to move back to the Island from California to take over the family
farm. James fixed up the old farmhouse much to his father’s
delight and continues to live there with his family to this day.
Earl Keefe was a faithful member of the Borden Legion Branch #10
for many years and was eventually awarded with an honorary lifetime
membership. In 1992, Earl joined together with Brian Keefe and
Joseph Shreenan in an effort to establish a war veterans memorial
called the Kinkora
War Monument. That magnificent and evocative monument,
which had long been a personal dream of Earl's to fulfill, stands
proudly today in Kinkora due in large part to Earl's own diligent
efforts along with those of his two fellow monument co-ordinators.
In 1997, Earl became very sick and had to be hospitalized. Doctors
indicated that there was likely less than a 1% chance that Earl
would survive. Well, Earl beat those odds much to the doctors
surprise and amazement. He eventually required care in a nursing
home however & had to learn how to walk again after enduring
much trauma to his system. Three months later he was back home.
Earl was a tough man…in fact, years earlier he'd had knee
problems due to arthritis and actually had to get a knee replacement.
He used to say after that, that he was just like his grandfather,
Ambrose Monaghan...good from the knees up!
was a man who was very proud of his Irish Roman Catholic heritage.
He had a deep and abiding faith in God which he instilled in
his family. In 2000, Earl’s health began to deteriorate
significantly. He was 87 years old and had, early in 2001, entered
a nursing home in Summerside. But even in failing health he
managed to charm all those whom he met. In August of that year,
at the ripe old age of 88, he finally passed into the arms of
his Lord and Savior in the presence of his loving family.
closing, so much more could be said about James Earl Keefe. In
his later years he would often say that he had lived a good long
life and was ready to go. He did live a good and long life. He
was a loving son, a brother, a husband, a father and of course
a loving grandfather. His deep faith carried him through his trials
and tribulations. He was well thought of by many who knew him
as a kind & gentle man. Earl was a considerate man who had
a great sense of humor and he enjoyed his life. He enriched the
lives of his many loved ones and the hearts of all those friends
and strangers he came in contact with in his years on this earth.
He has left a priceless part of himself in our memories.
God Bless You Earl…..you will not be forgotten.
God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting