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Service Details

Visitation:

Saturday, December 30, 2017
2:30 to 3:30 pm
Union Park United Methodist Church
2308 E 12th Street
Des Moines

Service:

Saturday, December 30, 2017
3:30 pm
Union Park United Methodist Church
2308 E 12th Street
Des Moines

Disposition:

Cremation prior to services
Hamilton's Crematory
Des Moines

Arrangements:

Hamilton's Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 243-5221

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Francis Keith

Des Moines

Francis E. Keith (Fran) was born on September 20, 1930, in Des Moines Iowa, to parents, Ralph and Martha (Frus) Keith. He was the youngest of three children, having an older brother, Harold and an older sister Betty. Fran’s early childhood was difficult as his father suffered from tuberculosis. He was in and out of the hospital and as such his mother was the primary breadwinner. Because of this, he was left on his own or under the care of his older sister for much of his primary years. When Fran was six, his family had finally saved enough money to take a vacation. They headed west but somewhere in Nebraska developed car trouble. As Fran’s father got out to look at the car, his older brother Harold also got out and was hit by a car and killed. This affected Fran for the rest of his life. Fran, his father and mother and sister, Betty, lived in Des Moines for his entire childhood, most of the time around the old North High School (now Moulton Elementary) and the Drake neighborhood. Fran prided himself on staying in school during these difficult times, having a paper route to help with family finances and joining the Boy Scouts. All of these things contributed to the successful person that Fran was. In 1942, Fran lost his father to tuberculosis on Christmas Day. Another factor that affected him for the rest of his life.

Fran graduated from North High School in June 1948. He was on the swim team the whole time at North and continued to swim throughout his life. It was shortly after graduation that Fran met his future wife, Nan at Birdland Pool. She was there with friends from East High School and he was there with friends from North High School. He would tell the story of how Nan was pushed into the pool and couldn’t swim. So he jumped in to save her!

Fran joined the Iowa Air National Guard. He was stationed in Bangor, Maine. On a long leave of absence, Fran came home and he and Nan were married on March 8, 1952, and they honeymooned on the way back to Bangor. They lived there until Fran was discharged and they moved back to Iowa City, where Fran had been admitted to the University of Iowa. The years of 1952 to 1957 were spent in Iowa City. Fran worked many jobs while attending school including working at the Ford Garage at night and still managed to be very successful at Iowa graduating in May of 1957 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.

Fran and Nan returned to Des Moines to begin their dental practice in the Drake neighborhood. In December of 1957, their first child was born, a daughter, Kristine. Shortly thereafter, they bought their first house. A son, Steven was born in February 1960 and a daughter, Rebecca in December, 1962. With this their family was complete. During this time period an office in the same building as Nan’s father (also a dentist) became available and Fran moved to 1339 Guthrie. This was the beginning of his long term practice on the northeast side of Des Moines which culminated with his son-in-law (Becky’s husband Russ) coming in to practice with him and Fran eventually retiring in 1997.

Fran was a lifelong learner. He was interested in everything and enjoyed learning new things by reading and by experiences. He was a dentist, reader, sportsman, humanitarian, Scouter, activist, boat enthusiast, organizer, genealogist, photographer, woodworker, traveler, family man, teacher, world class putterer, writer, Hawkeye, Colonel, and collector. Somehow all of these fit together to create the man that was Fran.

Fran was in the military in some form for many years. After his graduation from Iowa, he enlisted again in the Iowa National Guard. He then switched to the Army National Guard and then to the Army Reserve. During his time in the Army Reserve, he was promoted to a Bird Colonel and stationed for several years at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas and West Point in New York. His primary job was developing a plan for reserve dentists in the United States should we ever be in another World War and the full time military dentists were sent overseas.

Fran was also very active in dental affairs in Iowa and the United States throughout his whole career. He served on the Iowa Dental Society for many years, including as its president, was chosen for the Pierre Fauchard Academy (a nonprofit dental organization dedicated to dental research) and the G.V. Black Dental Study Club. Fran was adjunct professor for the University of Iowa for several years mentoring students with an interest in dental school. Fran’s interest in dental health grew to include more than just his practice, including a while spend in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico providing dental services to the native people.

Throughout his career, Fran was interested in his community and in particular schools. Fran was active in organizing the NCCO, (North Central Community Organization), on the Library Board of Des Moines and Pleasant Hill, an organizing member of the North High Alumni Association, inducted into the North High Hall of Fame, on the Booster Club and Stadium Building Committees of North, a member of the Highland Park Business Men’s Club, the American Legion and the Seratoma Club of Des Moines. Fran ran for school board in the 1970’s.

Fran loved to travel. He spent many summers taking his family on driving vacations to see the sights of the United States – just another example of his joy for learning. Planning these vacations was a great joy for Fran and no detail was left untouched. Every possibility was explored and documented and as a result they had amazing vacations. And of course, every plan was filed to be used on a future trip. As the family grew up, Fran and Nan began to travel further abroad. They joined the Friendship Force and were able to travel throughout the world enjoying learning about many different cultures. They traveled to many places in the world including China, England, Scotland, Czechoslovakia, France and Germany. One of the highlights of his traveling was taking each of his grandchildren on a special trip to celebrate their high school graduation. Many special memories were created between Fran and his grandchildren on these trips.

In 1971 Fran bought property north of Brainerd, Minnesota. The land is on Pelican Lake and consisted of a woods, 100’ of sandy shoreline and a small two bedroom house. It wasn’t long after purchase that Fran begin his plans for building on and improving the house and property. He took great pride in creating his own plans and bring them to fruition. The house is now one of his most prized possessions. He has improved the house, the boat house, and the garage – doing all of the work designing and most of the building himself and with the help of friends and family. He loved nothing more than spending time up there and working on his projects. Along with the property came his deep love of boating. If there was a boat that was available, he bought it. Throughout his life he owned canoes, sailboats, fishing boats, and speedboats. Rarely buying anything new, he preferred to buy something and improve on it. His family’s childhood was filled with boating on the Des Moines River and Coralville Reservoir in the early years, to fishing, tubing and skiing at Pelican Lake.

Fran loved to hunt in Iowa and Wyoming. He hunted Wyoming deer and antelope and Iowa deer, pheasant and turkeys. He loved being outside and had the patience to be successful. It was one of his great joys when his son, Steve was old enough to hunt with him and they spent many enjoyable hours hunting and processing their game.

When Fran retired, he indulged himself and bought a tractor. This was one of his pride and joys. He was known to spend hours driving around on his tractor, moving anything that could be moved. He loved giving rides to all the kids in the family and teaching them to drive the tractor on their own. Of course along with driving the tractor, the kids were then expected to use the tractor for work! Fun and work were deeply intertwined for Fran.

Fran was an amateur photography and enjoyed taking photographs of any and everything. As a result, his family’s life is well documented. Pictures of vacations and wildlife were among his favorite subjects. He could sit for hours to catch the perfect picture of a goldfinch on his feeder, an eagle on the flagpole, or Haley’s comet.

Fran was excited to work on research to find out about his family. He knew that his family heritage was from Scotland and Czechoslovakia but not much more. Throughout the years, he discovered and was able to visit exactly where they came from. He also discovered his roots in the United States and visited them. While he never learned to speak either language as a child, he delighted in learning sayings, poems or prayers in Scottish and Czech. He also learned to make some cultural foods such as kolaches. He was a member of the Scottish Heritage Society and practiced making haggis with them.

Fran was a proud member of the Boy Scouts of America. He started as a young man, crediting Scouts with keeping him on track as a young man. He continued as an adult volunteering as a Scout leader, taking several troops to the National Jamborees. Fran earned his Eagle Scout as a boy and was extremely proud when his son, Steve and grandsons, Scott, Ben and Matt also received their Eagle Awards. Fran was awarded the Silver Beaver Award as an adult for his service to the Boy Scouts.

Fran loved designing and building things. He also had many projects going in his woodshop. It did not matter if the project was large or small, he loved it. He created wooden Christmas ornaments for his grandchildren for many years and ornaments for Nan for all of the seasons. Additions to their house in Minnesota and fixing broken things are only a few of things Fran worked on. There were always many projects in the works.

Fran loved to create things or make things better. He always had a plan. His grandson, Ben, came up with the word, Frantraption to describe Grandpa’s creations. He was always sure that he had a better way – a way to improve what anyone else had made. And he was usually correct. A wheelbarrow with three wheels can tip over, so let’s put a fourth wheel on it. Fran also could not miss a bargain. If it was on sale, then you needed to buy two or three. If you see it on the road, pick it up because you might be able to use it someday. If it’s free, then it’s worth standing in line to get (Fleet Farm t-shirts anyone?) and if you have a few books, then you better get more.

Fran suffered the last few years of his life from a form of dementia that robbed him of his ability to reason, have fun with his family, and ultimately to speak coherently. Though his words would not come, he knew his family and always had a smile for them and a touch or a kiss. While he might “smile and greet you” several times during your visit, he was happy to see you and let you know through his face. Fran lived the last two and a half years at Trinity Center on the Luther Park Campus. The family would like to thank all of the staff on “B” hall at Trinity Center for loving their Dad and taking such good care of him. Special thanks go out to Connie, Luz, Dimitry, and Theresa for always being there for all of the family.

Fran is survived by his wife of 65 years, Nan; his children, Kris Weinheimer and husband Steve, Becky Potts and husband Russ, and daughter-in-law Carol Keith. He has eight grandchildren – Scott Weinheimer and wife Ainslee, Elizabeth Weinheimer, Anna Weinheimer, Matt Keith and wife Torie, Stephanie Keith, Ben Potts and his wife Stephanie, Meredith Potts, and Natalie Potts. Fran also has two great children, Haylie Weinheimer and Callen Weinheimer.

Fran was preceded in death by his parents, brother Harold Keith, sister Betty Keith Carter, and son Steven Keith.

Memorial Services will be Saturday, December 30, 2017, at 3:30 p.m., at Union Park United Methodist Church, 2308 E 12th Street in Des Moines. Visitation will be at 2:30 just prior to the service. A light supper will be served after the service.

Memorial should be directed to Union Park United Methodist Church in memory of Fran.