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John R. Keyser
January 14, 1922 to December 20, 2018
John R. Keyser passed away on December 20th in Greeley at the age of 96 following a battle with cancer. He was born in Dundy County, Nebraska where his parents J.D. and Marguerite (Simmons) Keyser had a small farm just outside Benkleman, Nebraska.
He attended a small one room school house there when not helping out on the farm and graduated high school in 1939. Following graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940. After basic training, he was promoted quickly to company clerk because he could type and was transferred to Fort Ord, California and later to Fort Lewis, Washington where he managed to get transferred into the U.S. Army Air Force. Seeking to become a pilot he attended flight school in Santa Ana, California and then onto Santa Maria, California for Aeronautic College, and finally completed advanced training in Stockton, California where he earned his wings. He was promoted to Lieutenant and was sent to Long Beach, Ca. to join the U.S.A.F. Ferry Command, where his mission was to ferry new aircraft to where they were needed.
When WWII broke out, he flew dozens of missions all over the world and logged thousands of hours of flight time. By 1943, Captain John Keyser had been first pilot on the B-24, B-25, B-17, P-38, P-51, and C-47 aircraft and delivered planes, cargo, and personnel for the war effort. In 1944 he was sent to Miami, Florida as base of operations to fly routes to South America, Africa, and India. He flew C-54 and C-87 aircraft mostly here and flew the “Hump”, Himalayan Mountains many times to air lift supplies to China. Like many of the “Greatest Generation”, he just did what he was commanded to do and made the most of it as best he could and somehow survived.
In 1945, after WWII was over and five years after enlisting he decided to get out of the military. He was 23 years old when he settled back in La Salle, Co. where his parents and siblings had moved from Nebraska. He got a job in construction, started a family and was moving forward, but stayed as a reserve officer in the Air Force. He was recalled into service during the Korean Conflict and was trained to fly the B-29 and KC-97 air tanker. He and his young family were sent to Tampa, Fl. --- now part of the Strategic Air Command.
He concluded his service to the Air Command in 1954 and returned to La Salle, CO where he again became a carpenter and then a superintendent for housing construction. In 1957 he started his own construction business building custom homes for customers, along with remodels and additions for various people throughout Weld County. He continued to build and gain experience and moved to Greeley, CO in 1964 to gain a larger market. After divorcing his first wife, he later married Rachel McKay in 1970 and they made a good life together in Greeley until her death in 2008.
In recent years he has resided at the Bonell Good Samaritan Retirement Community in independent living quarters. Always staying positive and active, he enjoyed his remaining friends and associates at the Senior Center bridge gatherings and enjoyed Saturday drives to Farmers Inn in La Salle to see longtime friends and get a nacho fix. He was able to continue to drive with no problems and was the odds on bet for taking first place in bridge until his death.
John was a direct descendant of the original Mayflower Pilgrims and of American Revolution soldiers. His Mayflower ancestor was also an author of the Mayflower Compact, the precursor to the Declaration of Independence. His American roots ran deep.
John is survived by his daughter, Sharon Smith of Evans and son, Brad Keyser (Micki) of Lafayette. He is also survived by a granddaughter, Shauna Smith Troxell (Clayton) and great granddaughter, Isabel Troxell of Fort Collins and many nieces and nephews in the Greeley area. He is also survived by his many step-family relatives of Rachel McKay Keyser.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Marguerite and J.D. Keyser of La Salle, Co., sister, Evelyn Smith (Bill) of La Salle, Co., and brother, Eldon Keyser (Hope) of Greeley, Co. and wife, Rachel McKay Keyser.
In accordance with John’s wishes, no service will be held, with cremation being his choice. A toast in his honor by his few remaining long-time friends and extended family members is encouraged and greatly appreciated.