February 3, 1925 – May 9,2018
“Over half my life was spent flying anything that could be flown, in war and peace. Why am I still here? I owe it to our Lord in whom I firmly believe. ~ Blaine Keith, 2011
Blaine F. Keith was born February 3, 1925 to George and Margaret Keith.
By 1929 during The Great Depression, their family home was foreclosed upon after which time the family was unable to stay together. Blaine went to live with his paternal grandparents, Frank and Carie Keith, to him the most wonderful people who ever lived, on their dairy farm 135 miles east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Blaine’s dad, who had found work in Pittsburgh, came to visit every weekend.
When Blaine was nine, an airplane flew very low over his grandparents’ house and landed on their old farm road. That was the first time Blaine’s grandmother ever met her brother who had stayed in England when the rest of the family immigrated to America. Because of his initials, “E.C.,” which sounded like “Easy,” Blaine called him Uncle Easy.
Uncle Easy taught Blaine to fly and by the time he was 10 he took the controls, soloed at 12 and on his 17th birthday Blaine received his pilot’s license.
On the day after his high school graduation, at the age of 17, he embarked on a 38-year career with the U.S. Marines. Before the year was over he had earned his silver wings and six sergeant stripes and was flying in Guadalcanal with the legendary Joe Foss. He earned his first Bronze Star followed by a Silver Star in Guadalcanal. He also saw action in Bougainville, Tinian, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, among other Pacific Islands fighting from one island to another over three years and eight months until the war ended.
After the war, Blaine graduated from War College with a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a field commission to captain. He returned to combat in Korea where he earned his second Bronze Star and the Purple Heart while flying 100 combat missions in Panther Jets.
Working with North American Aviation and NASA designing and test piloting aircraft and rocket planes, he received the “Silver Astronaut Award.”]
Blaine played an instrumental role in developing the Apollo landing system for the Apollo Command Module, which held three astronauts. President John F. Kennedy appointed him to head the NASA troubleshooting “Tiger Team.” Blaine was the director of the 747 flight on which the Space Shuttle was piggy backed, one of his most demanding positions. Seven shuttle flights were made to prove the shuttle could separate from the 747 and glide to a safe landing at DFRC Dry Lake before the shuttle qualified for “Manned Flight.”
Blaine retired from the Marine Corps as a full colonel, then went on to serve as head of Goodyear Tire Company’s Western Region, the most diverse and profitable of the worldwide company.
After his heart failed in 1990, he retired and he and his wife Martha moved to Carefree, Arizona, built a home and Blaine has been active in the community ever since.
Blaine always served his fellow man. He was active in Kiwanis and is especially proud of the hundreds of schools where he spoke about serving others including UCLA, UofA, NAU and schools in Lake Havasu City and Yuma, to name a few. He is a faithful member of Desert Hills Presbyterian Church where he especially enjoyed Bible Study and a 32nd Degree Mason. As a Shriner, he served on the Air Patrol. Calls would come in to pick up and transport injured or ill young children in remote areas. Blaine made numerous flights to transport children to various airfields for further transport to medical care.
Blaine is survived by his Stepmother Dolly Keith, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; son Scottie Keith (Brenda), Missoula, Montana, son Donald H, Keith, Tustin, California, daughter Valee Keith Decker, Long Beach, California, daughter Julie Rich (Larry), West Hills, California and son Tim Keith (Tiffany), Oakdale, California. He is also survived by six grandchildren and one great grandson.
He is much loved and will be greatly missed by friends everywhere.
A memorial service for Blaine will be held on Wednesday, 5/16/18 at 11:00am (Masonic) and 1:00 at Desert Hills Presbyterian Church, 34605 N. Tom Darlington Drive, Carefree, Arizona 85262.