Wilfred W. Keith
It is with sadness that the family of Wilfred W. Keith announces his peaceful passing on February 5, 2021, at the age of 82. Wilf was predeceased by his mother Elizabeth (Morris) Keith, twin sister Elizabeth Stasiuk, father Wilf Sr., wife Myrna (Stefanson) Keith, nephew Kyle Stefanson, brother-in-law Ken Stefanson, and step-mother Betty (Burch) Keith (“Jama”).
Left to remember his laughter and stories are his second wife Barbara (Johnson) Keith, his children Doug Keith, Al Keith (Barb Hansford), Kelly Keith (Brian Morrish), and Jan Forster (Rowland); his grandchildren Cody Kjell (Kristian), Stefan Keith, Mark Edmonds, and Mason and Parker Forster; his great-grandson Otsonen Kjell; his brother-in-law Gerry Stefanson (Lynn); and niece Bree Stefanson; along with Barb’s large welcoming family; several godchildren; many good friends; and numerous cousins and other extended family.
Wilf and his twin sister Betty (“Little Bet”) were born on May 3, 1938, to Wilf and Elizabeth Keith (Morris). Tragically, their mother passed away just hours after giving birth and their father moved in with his parents in Selkirk for a time to have help with the twins. Wilf grew up with his grandmother Nan being more like a mother and was close with his uncles, particularly Elmer Keith. Wilf remained close to his mother’s family and lived for a while on Whytewold Road in Winnipeg, a few doors down from his Granny and Grampa Morris. When his father married Betty Burch, the family lived on Fleet Avenue in Winnipeg.
His school days were divided between Winnipeg and Selkirk. He frequently shared stories from his childhood in Selkirk with his good friends and how they often got into hijinks. He also got a kick out of telling people he went to St. Mary’s Academy, though at that time boys were sometimes allowed in grades 1 and 2 and his aunt was a nun who taught there. Wilf was a Queen’s Scout and he was thrilled to have seen Marilyn Monroe on a Scout’s trip to BC.
He and Myrna were teenage sweethearts in Selkirk and were married young. They built their cottage at Lester Beach at the age of 21, before they even owned a house. They were living in Winnipeg at that time and Wilf worked as a power engineer at the Winnipeg General (Health Sciences Centre). Following the birth of Doug, and two years later, Al, the family moved out to Pinawa when Wilf took a job at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Kelly and Jan were born after the family had relocated and the family treasured many years in Pinawa.
In 1979, Wilf took on the role of Director of the Physical Plant and Maintenance at Seven Oaks General Hospital in Winnipeg. He was the third employee hired, starting before the building was even constructed. He worked the remainder of his career there, developing many strong friendships as well as lots of stories. He and Myrna purchased a house on the river in Woodhaven in 1981, at an auction, sight unseen. This turned out to be a huge project with Wilf renovating the house from top to bottom. They lived in their beautiful home at 2720 Assiniboine for many years and enjoyed countless family parties there.
When Myrna passed away in 1995, just as he retired, Wilf took on a volunteer job restoring airplanes at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada, where he enjoyed meeting new friends and applying his talents and creativity in a new way. He soon met Barb – and the family was thrilled to welcome her. Wilf was so fortunate to have a whole new phase of life with Barb, whom he married in 2003. He enjoyed spending time with her family, and he became a special uncle to her many nephews and nieces. They split their time during the summers between Lester Beach and West Hawk, where dad loved hanging out on the dock they built. Time at Lester Beach was spent with lots of family as well as his lifelong friend, Bill Shead and family. There were so many that called him “Uncle Wilf.”
Wilf’s grandchildren were his pride and joy. He was over the moon when he became a Papa, loved each of his grandkids to pieces and felt blessed to welcome his first great-grandchild, Otsonen. He spoiled Mason and Parker with treats on his weekly Sunday visits, and loved to tell them crazy stories of his youth, always saying “Papa is awful proud of his guys” before he left. He delighted in the accomplishments of each of his children and would continually tell us how proud our mom would be of us. He loved to display evidence of any success, particularly Doug’s artwork.
Wilf was a character. Many will recall the infamous handlebar mustache he sported for many years. He had a unique, big laugh, and loved to tell stories such as having to kiss the “blarney stone” upon his marriage to Myrna. Family and tradition were very important to Wilf; he carried on Myrna’s Icelandic Christmas traditions dutifully after her death and he enjoyed re-connecting with his Boivin relatives in recent years. A special memory was a trip with Barb to the UK where he was able to see the Keith Castle (Dunnotar), as well as visit the English manor that belonged to actress Lily Langtry, where his Morris grandparents were employed as gardener and cook.
Wilf organized an annual family “fishing derby” with multiple competitions including a “Tall Tales” contest and loved giving out prizes to his grandkids and children (note that very few fish were actually caught!). He also refereed the family “Thanksgiving Classic” ball hockey game. He kept meticulous records and photos of these cherished events.
A very intelligent and talented person, Wilf excelled at anything that involved working with his hands from mechanics and construction to art and creating model boats. He was proud of his many construction projects, such as the addition with the spiral stairs that he welded himself in Pinawa, the cottage and its numerous additions, completely redoing the house in Woodhaven, and helping his kids with their home projects. He enjoyed mentoring Rowland with home renos and the two were known for a while as “Sparky and Sparky Junior” when doing some electrical work on Jan’s first home. He was so happy recently to be able to help Cody with a tile project in her kitchen. Wilf was generous with his time and helped many friends and extended family with projects at their homes and cottages. He loved coming up with solutions to challenging home projects, often sketching them on a napkin at the kitchen table. Seeing Al become a successful kitchen and renovation contractor gave him special satisfaction that he had passed along those skills.
Wilf treasured his father’s 18' Starcraft motorboat named “Mr. Habs” and he kept it in pristine condition. He also loved his hockey, though his long allegiance to the Montreal Canadians wavered when his cousin’s son joined the Chicago Blackhawks - he loved following his successful career.
The COVID 19 Pandemic was hard on Papa – he missed hugging his kids and grandkids as well as the proper hockey season. He has left a hole in our family and we will remember so many good times with him. Barb finally has control of the remote.
Immediate family is planning a small graveside service; a celebration of Wilf’s life will take place when such events are possible and hugs can be freely shared.
Thanks Papa – we will miss you.
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