This was Renfrew resident Gerald Patrick Keough, in his 90s, as a still-active pilot last year.
The long-standing positive spirit of Gerald Patrick
Keough of Renfrew remained prominent until the end.
The father of 11 children, who was called the oldest
active pilot in Canada, died
last week in the company of several family members at Renfrew Victoria
He died, at age 94, of bone cancer about four years
after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is also survived by 17
grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
As a young boy, he was told by his mother not to touch
the alcoholic beverages that were his own father’s undoing. And the youngster
He grew up to be a non-drinking, family-oriented,
faith-filled, fitness-fervent example to his children, other family members,
friends and associates.
To several of his clients in the insurance business, he
was known as Honest Gerry.
To his children, he was known as a non-complainer, who
spoke his mind, embraced his Roman Catholic faith, and never stopped
In his final days, he was given the option of occupying
a quiet room at Hospice Renfrew. But he said no, preferring instead the more
active environment of a room shared with another patient.
He was active until his final days. He had renewed his
passport last fall, he was planning a trip to Alaska, and he continued to do leg-lifting
exercises in his hospital bed.
Life was seldom sedentary for him, says daughter
Margaret Pocket of Arnprior.
“It was quite exciting because he kept us on the move,”
she says of her dad. A former competitive canoeist, he was an avid paddler,
downhill skier, swimmer, walker and pilot who insisted on picking up litter
left by others.
For his care of community, he once received a Clean
World Award certificate signed by Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson and the
Pitch-In Canada president.
As a skier, he helped build the ski hills at the
Pinnacle and just outside Dacre.
“He was good and kind,” says daughter Margaret, noting
her dad was often the designated driver for friends when they went into Ottawa for social events.
Daughter Leni Keough of Jasper East, Alta., adds: “He
was positive and fair and fun.”
He didn’t deviate from his principles either, say family
members. For example, he often visited the mining camps in the Northwest Territories,
where Leni worked and where he left a positive impression on crew. They
included one driller one who paid him tribute by having a Bible verse tattooed
on his back.
His fervour for flying officially started in 1959.
Leni recalls a December 2009 phone call during which he
told her how beautiful it was “to be dancing in the sky” that day. A charter
member of the Champlain Flying Club near Cobden, he took his final flight in
his Citabria two-seater aircraft in March 2010.
His fervour for life also continued despite the death of
his wife, Mary (nee Wickham), in 2003.
“We’re sad, but he really did lead a great life,” says
“He was very fulfilled. When mom died he didn’t shrivel
up and die. He sort of gathered up his strength and grabbed life.”
And so it was, in keeping with his wishes, that several
attending the Aug. 21 funeral pitched in, using shovels made available, to
cover the casket with soil and flowers.
“It feels complete. You take the person you loved so
much and put them to rest … It helps with closure,” says Leni. The internment
took place at the St. Francis Xavier cemetery after Saturday’s service at Our
Lady of Fatima Catholic Church.
He is survived by many family members. They include his
other nine children, Kathleen (Donohue) of Renfrew, Maureen, Mary Brenda and
Kevin of Ottawa, Karen of Kingston, Timothy, John and Sheila of Alberta, and
Patrick in British Columbia.