Gone But Never Forgotten
John L. Keefer, Sr.
1924 – 2020
It is with our deepest sympathy that we make known the passing of one of our most exalted Society members, Mr. John Keefer.
John led a fascinating life. This fact is wonderfully illustrated by his memoir, “Boose for Cow.”
Not only did he work for Southern Pacific Railroad for 44 years as a Brakeman/Conductor, but also personally experienced significant advancements within the railroad industry. When John began his work on the railroad, radio communications for the industry were not yet available. He details the intricate and various hand signs he would have to perform in order to communicate with other workers who were out of earshot. John also experienced the firsthand obsoletion of steam powered locomotives. Despite all the changes he had to endure, John remained loyal to is profession and positive to the growth and advancement. Although he does reminisce at length of his early days, it is done without bitterness or resentment.
Although this memoir was meant to only capture his work experiences, John’s compassion for his fellow man can be seen scattered throughout the pages. As a young high schooler, John would help his mother run her Room & Boarding House (located near the Eugene SP Railroad Yard and was nearly exclusive for railroad workers), by making beds and cooking during the night shift so she could rest. As a young man he would go on to cover the job of an intoxicated man without complaint and later would emphatically comfort a fellow worker after a failed hand brake led to a high speed chase.
Based upon his memoir, it is clear to me that John was a man who moved through life confidently and enthusiastically, adapting to changes, and overcoming obstacles. John touched many lives during his time with us. He will be missed dearly and thought of when the train whistles sound.
“But I still miss those steam engines with their sizzling steam and hot oil smell and I love to hear one working pulling a train. Just no sound like that.”
John L. Keefer
Caboose 573 was dedicated to John on its 100th birthday, September 16, 2007. It still currently functions as the museum office and walkthrough exhibit, just as John intended. The original donation of Caboose 573 to the Toledo Jaycees was organized by John, thus ultimately saving this priceless piece of railroading history.
John’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Yaquina Pacific Railroad Historical Society and Museum. Unless specified, all donations made in John’s name will be retained in order to allocate funds for an appropriate cause. Our hearts ache for the Keefer family during this challenging and painful time.
The Museum will be closed to visitors until December 31st, but the office will remain open. We will continue to monitor the new criteria and procedures for reopening.
The YPRHS will continue to follow statewide guidelines in order to keep others and ourselves safe. We apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your understanding during this time.