A number of times over the years, I was charged with writing retirement stories for Courier-Post employees. With Dan Niday's death last week, I started thinking about some of those stories that are buried in clip files in the newspaper's basement.
The first retiree story I wrote was for Louie Keithley, published on July 28, 1978. I remember this one specifically because I pasted the story into a scrapbook containing my earliest writings.
He talks about the linden trees planted around the parameter of the Courier-Post building. One of those trees - on the south side of the building - remains. A comfortable bench is in place below the tree, so visitors can enjoy sitting in the shade. When I see this tree, I still think of Louie, all of these years later.
I'll post more of these stories as I locate them.
Friday, July 28, 1978
BY MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
James Louis Keithley, better known as Louie to the employees of the Courier-Post, plans to retire Saturday.
He is one of the first people employees meet on the job, because he is always the first one called when trouble arises. His job title is building maintenance man, but his duties are far more varied than the name implies.
Whether a light fixture needs mending, a desk drawer is stuck or the snow needs shoveling, Keithley is always the one summoned for help.
He began working for the Courier-Post in 1961. “I’ve never missed a day in the whole time I’ve been here – never been later either,” Keithley boasts.
He is easily recognized, always wearing a striped shop cap and denim coveralls.
Keithley says he prefers the outside work involved in his duties. “I like shoveling the snow in the winter, and I’m proud of the trees and flowers.”
Keithley adopted the six linden trees, which were planted around the building during a downtown beautification program. He has carefully watered and nurtured the trees, and watched them grown from seedlings to shade producing addition to Hannibal’s downtown business district.
In 1977, when parking meters were removed from their posts in the downtown area, Keithley began exhibiting his gardening green-thumb while caring for the petunias planted there.
“I wonder who’s gonna take care of the flowers and trees when I retire – somebody’s got to,” Keithley says.
“In one way,” he says, “it’s going to be lonesome, not seeing all the people I’ve worked with.”
He plans to take care of his yard and quarter-acre garden, which, he says, “is a full week’s work.” He lives on a farm, and was a farm worker before coming to work at the Courier-Post. He says he and his wife Dorothy work together, and are looking forward to spending more time together.
“I’ve seen a lot of people come and go for various reasons over the years,” he says. “Dave Beliles and Jim McLellan are tops when it comes to bosses.” Keithley says he “likes everybody” he works with, and doesn’t have any trouble getting along with anyone. Maybe its because he is a friend to everyone.
The Courier-Post just won’t be the same without Louie.
EDITOR’S NOTE: According to FindAGrave.com, Louie died May 24, 2002, and is buried beside his wife, Dorothy, at Grand View Burial Park in Ralls County, Mo.