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Joseph Paul Keith

December 2, 1929 -
August 1, 2019

Joseph Paul Keith, 89, of Champaign passed from this earthly life to his eternal life on Thursday, August 1, 2019 at 3:00 PM at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, Urbana. Paul’s journey began December 02, 1929 in Bardstown, Kentucky the son of Paul Boniface and Mary Rebecca Salsman Keith. He was the third of ten chi…read more

Joseph Paul Keith, 89, of Champaign passed from this earthly life to his eternal life on Thursday, August 1, 2019 at 3:00 PM at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center, Urbana. Paul’s journey began December 02, 1929 in Bardstown, Kentucky the son of Paul Boniface and Mary Rebecca Salsman Keith. He was the third of ten children. His father died at age 35 leaving his wife (34) with ten children ages 6 months to 13 years old. Paul and three brothers went to St. Bernard’s Prep in Cullman, Alabama for High School. At St. Bernard’s Paul worked on the school newspaper, played the sousaphone in the marching band and was the Salutatorian for his class.
It was around this time that Paul needed a birth certificate. He would not find a birth certificate as his birth was not registered by the doctor. His Baptism Certificate was used for identification. The Baptism Certificate was used for identification. The Baptism Certificate said Joseph Paul Keith. His family thought his name was recorded as Paul Joseph Keith. It seems Grandmother Keith had his name changed at his Baptism. Family and friends still call him Paul and government paperwork list him as Joseph Paul. Many times he has been called Joe as he is ushered into an office.
After High School Paul entered the Cistercian Order (Trappist Monks). While in the monastery Paul directed the choir, held a variety of farming jobs and taught himself to read and write in seven languages. Thomas Merton, the author, known as Father Louis in the monastery, was Paul’s master of students. Paul was a pall bearer for Merton’s funeral. On December 26, 1968 he left for a three year stay in Hong Kong as an exchange monk to teach English. He left the monastery in the Fall of 1972. In January of 1973 he started working in Champaign with the help of his younger brother Gordon. He became owner of the Econo Car Rental Agency.
On August 2, 1975 he married Mary Ann Braun at St. Patrick’s Church in Urbana. She survives, along with daughter Mary Johanna Combs (Erik) and grandson Michael and granddaughter Abigail. He is also survived by his brother Ray Kenneth Keith (Jeanne), sisters Julia Ann Whitaker and Mary Maxine Potts (Jim), brother-in-law Richard Braun, sisters-in-law Theresa, Jane, Dinah, Janice and Susan. He was proceeded in death by his parents, brothers Charlie, Jack, Bob and Gordon; sisters Martha Jean Morrow and Lois Reid; brothers-in-law Roger Tyler, Bill Morrow, Walter Reid and Harry Whitaker; and sister-in-law Georgene Braun. In 1982 Paul took advantage of a Governor’s Program at Eastern Illinois University. He graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor’s Degree at age 53. Paul sold the car rental business in 1983. He worked in real estate, sold appliances at Sears and a cleaning company. He began work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1987 and worked in the music and undergraduate libraries utilizing his music and language skills. Paul went back to school and earned a Master’s Degree in Library Sciences at age 63. He was a member of AFSCME Local 698. In addition to working at the University he took an evening job at Grace Lutheran Church for several years to get a head start on school tuition. He retired from the University in 2010 at age 80.
Paul was an active member of St. Mary Church in Champaign. He was a ten year member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame Associate Program. He was an accomplished singer and was happy to respond to many requests for weddings, funerals and Happy Birthdays. Paul found great joy gardening and won many ribbons for his flowers at the Champaign County Fair. He was never without a book in his pocket or a copy of the Sunday Comics. For the last 17 years he was able to share in the joy of his grandchildren growing up, playing cards, playing trains and attending countless school programs, archery tournaments and band concerts. An offer of ice cream would bring an instant smile.
A celebration of Paul’s life will be held on Thursday, August 8, 2019 at Morgan Funeral Home, Savoy. There will be a Rosary at 4:30 PM and visitation from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The funeral will be held in Effingham, Illinois at St. Anthony of Padua Church. A visitation at the church will be from 10:00 AM until 11:00 AM. A funeral Mass will follow the visitation at 11:00 AM. Burial will be in St. Anthony Cemetery followed by a funeral lunch for family and friends.
For those who wish, memorial contributions may be made in Paul’s name to Champaign Central Music Boosters at PO Box 1226, Champaign, IL 61824 or St. Anthony Schools at 101 East Virginia Ave., Effingham, IL 62401.
Paul lived with the effects of Alzheimer’s for 7 years. This is only a sad time for us. Paul is feeling much better.

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