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Published: Wednesday, 8/6/2014

Joseph W. Keeler: 1930-2014; Produce seller delivered mail in Bedford Twp.

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE — Joseph W. Keeler, a longtime Gulf Oil employee who planned and oversaw his family’s produce operation, from planting to harvest and then sale at their popular Talmadge Road stand, died Sunday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue. He was 84.

He and his wife, Kate, had heart problems and were under home hospice care for a year.

“They both lived very independently,” daughter Donna said. “When one was sick, the one cared for the other, and the one would rally back.”

Mrs. Keeler, 83, died June 20.

Mr. Keeler grew up on a Sylvania Township farm. He and his family settled on a plot along Talmadge south of Alexis Road and starting in 1960, sold just-picked strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, celery, corn, green beans, and melons.

“It became very popular, and it was a substantial part of how they supported the family for a number of years,” daughter Jeanne said.

Mr. Keeler ran the ground operation, daughter Jeanne said, and “the directives came from him.” He wanted straight rows and plants spaced just so.

“The quality of produce and customer service had to be tops,” daughter Jeanne said. “He did not tolerate anything less. We learned customer service from a young age, and we learned team work, because it was required of all of us.”

Mr. Keeler did warehouse work for Gulf Oil in Toledo, but in 1977 was transferred to Philadelphia. He, his wife, their three youngest children, and the family sold the property on Talmadge, although several years earlier they’d bought land in Temperance on which they grew soybeans and wheat. They moved to a house on the property in 1981.

He was a rural letter carrier in Bedford Township for more than a decade, retiring in 1994. He and his wife later moved to a house in a subdivision. He took his lawn and flowerbed-care duties seriously, his children said, and he liked to tell a good joke or pull a prank.

In his free time, he hunted down old tractors. The make didn’t matter. He only bought those in good working condition, with no oil leaks.

“He was meticulous,” son Tony said.

He was born April 12, 1930, to Mary and William Keeler and was a 1947 graduate of the former Burnham High School in Sylvania. He was in the Army from 1951-53 and was stationed in Washington. He formerly worked at the Jeep plant and at Sharon Manufacturing.

He married Catherine “Kate” Baker on Dec. 29, 1951. Their daughter, Debra Schoen, 60, died March 7.

Surviving are daughters, Regina “Jeanne” Keeler, Joanie Gomer, Catherine O’Rourke, Patricia Yates, and Donna Dulbs; sons, Joseph, Jr., and Anthony; brothers, Gerald and Robert; 28 grandchildren, and 40 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Temperance, where the family will greet guests after 10 a.m. The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or Catholic American War Veterans in Assumption, Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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