Jerry Hubert McKeown, a longtime resident of Billings, passed away peacefully Saturday, October 15, 2016 at his home surrounded by his family. He was 82. Funeral services have been entrusted to Palmer Marler Funeral Home of Perry.
A celebration of Jerry’s life is scheduled for 2PM Saturday, October 22, 2016 at the First Christian Church in Billings with Frank Tepe and Kurtis Stoll officiating. Interment will follow at the Billings Union Cemetery. A reception will be immediately after the graveside services at the Billings Community Building. There will be a visitation on Friday, October 21, 2016 from 9AM to 8PM at the funeral home. Family will receive guests from 5PM to 7PM.
Jerry was born in Billings, OK on June 21, 1934, the third of four children, to Harold and Velma(Hogan) McKeown. His great-grandfather Thomas and grandfather Pete (natives of Ireland) made “the run of 1893” homesteading two miles east of Billings. He attended the first grade in Newkirk, where his father was in charge of the port of entry along the Kansas border north of Newkirk. The family moved to Billings where he attended the second thru the twelfth grades. In his youth he attended and was baptized in the Billings First Christian Church. After his marriage, he and his wife and children attended the Billings Sacred Heart Catholic Church. While in high school he lettered in football, basketball and track. Jerry attended Boy’s State in his junior year and was salutatorian of his 1952 Billings High School graduating class. During his high school years he worked for many Billings businesses. Among them being Denton’s grocery, McCubbins Produce, Speed Daniels service station, The Billings News and Bill Kimbrell’s Billings Market Spot.
After high school graduation he attended N.O.C. and graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1957, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He received his basic training at Ft. Carson, CO and Ft. Bliss, TX. Following a 15 month tour in Korea, he and Sally Zavodny of Perry (his college sweetheart he met at a dance at OSU), were married on Nov. 22, 1958 in Perry, during his 30 day leave. Being reassigned to Ft. Sill in Lawton, he got an early release in December of 1958 to teach math at East Central High School in Tulsa where, with the exception of one year at OSU on a National Science Foundation Grant in math, he remained until 1964 when he returned to Billings to teach math, as he wanted his children to receive their education in a small school. All three of his children graduated from Billings High School, as did Jerry’s father before him, in 1922.
During his tenure at Billings for 25 years, with the exception of one year at the First State Bank in Billings, he served as math teacher, high school principal, elementary principal and superintendent. Except for his years in the service, from his junior year in high school he also worked for eighteen summers for George and Richard Culp in their farming operation.
While an administrator for the Billings Public School system, he was the driving force behind such projects as building a new elementary school in 1973, remodeling the high school, revamping the football field and its lighting system, and building a new agriculture building. He was always very mindful of the fact that without the support of parents, teachers, school employees, board of education members, the citizens who approved the bond issues, and the business owners who so generously purchased meals for the traveling athletes, none of these things would have been possible. Most of all he was very proud of the marvelous Billings students, and all they accomplished through the years, and the fine men and women they have since become.
Jerry held many offices both civic and educational. He served as president of the Billings Alumni Association, the Billings Rotary, the Noble County Teachers Association(OEA), the Noble County OSU Alumni, the Noble County Cherokee Strip Historical Society and the Northern Okla. Superintendent’s Association(OEA). He was appointed to the Noble County Flood Plain board and the Noble County Board of Health. He served as treasurer of the Bellmon Museum during its formative years. It was at his suggestion that the City of Billings acquire the Community building from the Chamber of Commerce, who at the time, had leased it to the school for 99 years, (at $1.00 per year), and renovate it as the town’s centennial project.
Although he officially retired in 1989, moving to the farm home he spent seven years building, he returned as superintendent for a few more years after that. Hard to make a living farming!!!!!
He was always very proud of his wife and children for their support during the many evenings and weekends he spent driving to OSU to earn his MS degree in 1969, and the additional hours needed to receive his certification as school superintendent. The work of Sally for 37 years at the Billings Fairchild Center, and the many jobs his children worked, made it possible for all three children to obtain a debt free degree from OSU. Way to go kids- dad is proud of you!!!
In 2009 he wrote and had approved the articles of incorporation making contributions to the Billings Alumni Association 501(c)(3) IRS tax deductible. During 2011-2012 Sally, using donated 8x10 Senior panels from former students all over the US, had them enlarged and placed in the Community Building to replace the school’s missing panels from 1914 to 1952.
Jerry is survived by his wife Sally of the home; sons Christopher McKeown of Grand Prairie, TX, and Terry McKeown and wife Cindy of Ardmore, OK, and their children Sarah, Emily and Cade; Daughter Pamela McKeown of Oklahoma City, OK; brother’s Harold McKeown of Tulare, CA and Daryl McKeown and wife Claudia of Norman, OK; sister Kathleen Pickens of Enid, OK; numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, stepfather, sister-in-law Ann McKeown, and nephew Gary Hays. Waiting for Jerry at the “Rainbow Bridge” will be his beloved dogs Bingo and Blackie, and his cat Misty.
The family would like to thank Dr. Michael Hartwig of Perry and Dr. Brian Whitson of Enid for their many years of care given to Jerry, also, a special thanks to companion Hospice of Guthrie for the last months of care.
Memorials may be made to the Billings High School Alumni Association in care of Palmer Marler Funeral Home, 203 Fir, Perry, OK. 73077.