James Earl Keefe
1913 - 2001
 
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How you do encapsulate the life of this man. It’s impossible!
 

James Earl Keefe
James 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.

TRAVELING 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.

 

Earl seemed proud of the 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 in 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.

MARRYING 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.

 
THE RETIREMENT YEARS: With their 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.
  James Earl Keefe and his horse, Kelly
Earl with his horse, Kelly, ready to go for a buggy ride.
Despite 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 would 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.

Earl & Mary Keefe, Children & Grandchildren
Earl 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 & Patrick Keefe

 
Being 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 hangovers.

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.

GRANDCHILDREN: In 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!

 
     
 

Earl 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.

In 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.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
--John 3:16


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