Duty, Honor, Country … these were not just ideals taught at West Point, but a way of life for Jim Keck.
DUTY: When Jim Keck attended a Civilian Military Training Corps (CMTC) summer camp before his senior year at Cranston HS, Rhode Island, he knew he wanted to pursue a military career. After attending Brown University for a semester, he enrolled in the class of June '43 at West Point, a class where he graduated in 3 years with his pilot wings and became part of the Army Air Corps. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Bobbie, he served 2 tours in Europe, flying 44 missions in his beloved B-24 Liberator, "the world's most beautiful airplane". He went on to pilot many more planes, including the SR-71, which he and son, Tom, were the only father and son to fly. He continued his education at the Naval War College and the National War College. Jim served in many capacities in the Air Force, from being Base Commander at Pease AFB, to Commander 2nd AF at Barksdale AFB, and ending his career in the Air Force as a Lt. General and Vice CINCSAC at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
HONOR: Jim Keck's philosophy to success was simple: Do your job well and do it honorably. He backed up this philosophy with his actions. During his AF career, Jim was awarded many decorations, including the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross. After his retirement in Omaha, he volunteered to sit on 31 different boards, including serving as Chairman of the Board of St. Joseph Hospital, President of the United Way, and Chairman of the Board of the Aerospace Education Foundation.
COUNTRY: Jim was a true patriot and loved serving his country when called. He would tell his children and grandchildren, "If you don't like the way things are, get involved and change it." In 1982, after being asked by President Reagan to run for the U.S. Senate, he and Bobbie campaigned across the state of Nebraska as the Republican candidate. While he didn't win the election, neither he nor Bobbie regretted the decision to run or the wonderful experiences they had.
When Jim and Bobbie decided to retire to Air Force Village after 34 years of military service along with 10 years in the corporate world working at Bozell and Jacobs Marketing, Jim's service didn't stop. He was Chairman of the Residents Council, Chairman of the Protestant Church Board, and a trustee for the AF Village Board. He and Bobbie spearheaded the campaign to build and furnish the High Flight Chapel, and Jim chaired the committee to raise money and build the swimming pool. Together they started the monthly B&A celebrations, the annual New Year's Eve parties, and organized the first tours for delegates to the annual meeting.
Jim was predeceased by his beloved wife of 71 years, Bobbie. He is survived by his daughter, Bonnie (Rich) Gardner, son Tom (Karen) Keck, daughter Sunny (JD) Lawson, nine grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, with one more on the way. His family was the center of his life, and they are better because he was in theirs.
"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded"
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Memorial Service will be held in the Air Force Village - High Flight Chapel, 5100 John D. Ryan Blvd. on Monday, July 16, at 1 PM, reception following service.
Contributions may be made to the High Flight Center, AF Village CF – High Flight Center, in his memory.