Charles Ross Keith


Charles Ross Keith, 90, of Miles City died Saturday, July 26, 2014, at the Veterans Affairs Nursing Home in Miles City.

Ross Keith was born to Charles and Lizzie Keith on Aug. 31, 1923, in Baker. He was raised in the Chalk Buttes area in Carter County and graduated from Carter County High School in Ekalaka in 1941. 

He was a United States Marine Corp veteran of both World War II and the Korean Conflict. He was wounded in action while serving with the 4th Marine Division on Iwo Jima. Mr. Keith was recalled to active duty during the Korean conflict and participated in combat operations on the Korean Peninsula.

In 1954 he was medically transferred from a Naval Hospital in California to the Miles City VA Hospital where he met and married his nurse, Patricia Beil. Later that year, Mr. Keith was medically retired from the Marine Corp. 

After a brief stay in Ekalaka, Mr. and Mrs. Keith moved to Oklahoma where he learned the laundry and dry cleaning vocation. In 1957, they moved back to Ekalaka where they owned and operated Keith Kleaners, a dry cleaning and laundromat service. While continuing to own and operate Keith Kleaners, Mr. Keith found additional work to care for his growing family. In January 1959, he went to Alaska and worked as a D 8 Cat operator on the Alaska Oil Pipeline. Later that fall, Mr. Keith returned to work on a drilling rig near Mill Iron. He tended bar in Ekalaka, Baker and Wibaux during the evenings and worked at the dry cleaners during the day. In 1964, Mr. Keith began a 30-year career hauling propane and servicing furnaces for W&S Propane (formerly Cal Gas) in Ekalaka. He sold the laundromat in 1978. 

Helping his neighbors and customers was very important to Mr. Keith as he answered every call in the middle of the night or during holidays to fill an empty tank, light a furnace pilot, or service and repair a furnace or heater. Although he did not own W&S Propane, most people believed he did by not only the late night and holiday sacrifices he made, but also the way he acted towards and treated all of his customers.

Community pride and involvement was an important part of Mr. Keith’s life, as he served on numerous boards and committees. In addition to being a life long member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, Mr. Keith fondly recalled his time as a two-term mayor of Ekalaka, original Scout Master for the local Boy Scouts of America, long time library board member, and long time ambulance driver for Dahl Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Keith is survived by his six children, Kristen (Wayne Geisen) Keith of Toledo, Ohio, Kent (Emily) Keith of Fairfax, Virginia, Korey (Greg Nichols) Keith of Glendive, Kara (Mel) Mader of Miles City, Kurt Keith of Miles City and KC (Lauri) Keith also of Miles City. He leaves behind 12 grandchildren, Chase (Shantel), Zac (Gina), Kelcey (Ray), Charli, Max, Alexia, JT, Raelyn, Cameron, Brett, KD, and Ryan; and three great-grandchildren, Brayden, Mason, and Cadyn.  Mr. Keith also is survived by his older sister, Peggy Thrailkill of Sea Ranch, California; numerous nephews and  nieces; and his special cousin, Lois Karn of Spearfish, South Dakota. 

Mr. Keith was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years. Pat Keith; his parents; brother, Bill Keith; and his special cousins, Kent (Cap) Keith and Marjorie Keith Curry. 

The staff of the VA Nursing Home in Miles City provided loving and affectionate care, which made Mr. Keith’s last months both positive and peaceful. 

Visitation will be Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, with the family receiving friends from 4 to 6 p.m. Funeral services will be Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Interment will follow in the Eastern Montana Veterans Cemetery with full military honors provided by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1579. 

Should friends desire, memorials may be made to the library of one’s choice. 

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