Fred Keesler Dies at 86

Thu August 07, 2008 - Northeast Edition
CEG




Fred F. Keesler, 86, of C.C. & F.F. Keesler Inc., in Prospect Park, Pa., died July 15 at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Mr. Keesler was president of the crane and trailer dealer outside of Philadelphia, Pa., until his retirement in 1988. The company was founded by his father, Clyde C. Keesler, in 1926.

Though he retired, Fred Keesler remained involved with the business he loved.

“He would come in some mornings during the week to check things out, to give some advice and council,” recalled son Rick Keesler, vice president of C.C. & F.F. Keesler. “That went on for four or five years until his health didn’t permit him to do that anymore. I’m sure that he missed coming in. But he had other things he wanted to do.”

Mr. Keesler had many interests and was heavily involved in the community throughout his life. He was an active volunteer and coach of the Prospect Park Termites Football program for more than 20 years. The league, which is still in existence today, features five age/weight divisions ranging from age 5 to 15.

He also was involved in local school activities. He was on the Interboro school board and was its president for two years. Also a volunteer fireman, Mr. Keesler would assist the fire company each year with its July 4th events, even running some of the athletic contests.

“He was always pitching in doing something,” said Rick Keesler.

It was this involvement that led one of Rick and Steve Keesler’s (treasurer of C.C. & F.F. Keesler) friends to approach them at their father’s recent funeral service.

“A friend came up to me and said, ’Your dad kept us straight and on the right path when we were kids.’ What she meant was that my father was a presence in the community and for all of us; he was watching out for us … kept us in line,” said Rick.

Mr. Keesler also was an avid tennis player throughout most of his life. A poker game with his many friends was never far from his mind, nor was fishing at the Jersey Shore, where he maintained a home in Ocean City, N.J.

He was a veteran of World War II, having served in the U.S. Army and was a longtime member and vestryman of St. James Episcopal Church in Prospect Park, where his father established a scholarship fund many years ago.

His business was the venue where his competitive nature flourished, though to him, the trophy was not the money that came with a sale, but with the journey traveled to get there.

“He was always telling me that making money on a deal for a piece of equipment was always secondary to the reward of doing a good selling job,” said Rick. “That was the reward in and of itself, he would say. He liked the competitive aspect of selling; it was about the excitement of trying to get the sale.”

The construction industry was like an extended family for Mr. Keesler — one in which he was involved just as extensively as he was in the community and in his own family.

“He liked the people in the industry and was very involved,” said Rick. “He was on Delaware Valley Associated Equipment Distributors board and was its president in 1971 and ’72. Shortly after that, he became regional director of the national AED in the mid-1970s.”

Ed McKeon, founder and CEO of Construction Equipment Guide, reflected on his longtime friend (and original advertiser in 1958), Fred Keesler.

“[Fred] was the perfect equipment dealer for the post-war era and beyond,” he began. “He was very resourceful, dynamic and visionary. You can always tell a top executive by the number of long-term employees he has and Fred had a great staff of well-liked, experienced, hard-working people.

“He had incredible marketshare for C.C. & F.F. Keesler and the company remains the leading Rogers Bros. trailer dealer in America,” McKeon continued. “He appeared to be tough, and he absolutely was tough, but he was fair and charitable. He rarely, if ever, spoke about the people or charities he helped. I never heard of Fred hurting anyone … except in football.”

Rick and Steve said that they were and remain very grateful for all their father brought to their lives. His presence still resonates in their being.

“He certainly was a great teacher,” began Rick “The thing that I personally remember most about my father was that he was the strongest man that I ever knew. He was the kind of guy, for example, that my brother and I would get hurt playing football and he would say, ’Walk it off and get out there and play.’ But he would put his arms around you and make you feel safe. I just felt that there was nothing else in the world that could harm me. All of us felt that way. He was so strong.”

Mr. Keesler was born in Canastota, N.Y., and was the son of the late Clyde and Norma Keesler. He was a resident of Philadelphia for the past five years, but was a resident of Prospect Park from 1926 to 1964 before moving to Wallingford, Nether Providence Township, where he lived before moving to Philadelphia.

Mr. Keesler is survived by his wife, Jeanette Keesler; his sons, Rick Keesler and Steve Keesler; his daughter, Patti Keesler; his step-sons, Brian Leimseider and Mark Leimseider; his step-daughter, Janet Mullin; his sister, Frances Graham; his ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The funeral service was held on July 18 at the Griffith Funeral Chapel, 520 Chester Pike, in Norwood, Pa. Interment was in Valley Forge Memorial Gardens in King of Prussia.

Contributions may be made to Prospect Park Termites Football, 637 14th Ave., Prospect Park, Pa. 19076 or to the Keesler Scholarship Fund at St. James Episcopal Church, 11th & Lincoln avenues, Prospect Park, Pa. 19076. CEG