Ed Keith was the embodiment of the quietly unexpected.
Reading did not come naturally to young Ed, but his mother told many stories of how he would listen intently as she read to him and how he could retell every story. She saw in him the kind of smarts that schools sometimes missed, and she nurtured them so well that as an adult her reluctant reader consumed more books than most of his peers. Ed’s collection of cowboy novels, war history stories, and books on the art of people like C.M. Russell and George Nakashima was enviable.
Ed likely looked like a live-action version of a King of the Hill character to most people, and in many ways, he could have fit in with those cartoon men. A good day for Ed would often begin with feeding his horses, followed by working with friends and family in “the shop” on whatever car was the project of the moment. But those hands of his that could build an engine with ease also happily crafted beautiful floral arrangements and decorated cakes. You see, Ed didn’t want his mom to go to classes that interested her alone, so he learned right beside her. He may have been a cowboy at heart, but he certainly didn’t let expectations of gendered activities stop him from learning.
So many people who knew Ed have a story of how he seemed to appear out of nowhere with encouraging words and generous gestures just when they needed them. From a treasured in-law who needed to hear she was going to be okay during an event, to the many young people who ended an afternoon swim in his backyard to find that he had put out snacks and drinks for them when they were not looking, Ed had a way of giving that was unmatched.
His consistent voting record and political activity would likely never reveal that Ed was a beloved regional union leader. When he was promoted to management at his plant, his coworkers probably never knew he lacked the MBAs they considered prerequisites for the job. In fact, Ed didn’t have the opportunity even to finish high school. Yet he held his own and excelled in leadership through a comprehensive understanding of every machine in the building and his unwavering belief that everyone coming to work was valuable.
And just when we all thought that Ed had turned a corner this summer with illness, he surprised us again by moving from this world to the next. The great man born Harold Edwin Keith on November 15, 1944, in Jackson, Mississippi, took his last breath in that same city on August 23, 2022.
He leaves behind a daughter, Tifani Keith of Jackson, who learned everything she needed to know about kindness and respect from her father. Ed gave Tifani her first camera, taught her how to make pancakes, and told her she was the most intelligent person he would ever know when she failed her first math test in college. Her four children- Morgan Jefferis, Annie Jefferis, Ella Jefferis of Jackson and Maggie Jefferis of Oxford- were gems in his crown. There likely isn’t a single person who helped care for Ed in his last years who didn’t hear him bragging about his grandchildren.
While legally Tifani was his only child, Ed was lucky enough to share the later part of his life with his loving partner, Angie Reed, of Clinton and considered her son, Chris Reed, his own. Chris and Ed shared a passion for rebuilding cars and making Angie happy.
Ed’s immediate family meant the world to him. As the oldest of six, he was fiercely protective of his mother, brothers, and sister. He was preceded in death by his parents, Margaret and Oscar Keith, as well as two brothers, Doug Keith and David Keith, all of Jackson. Ed is survived by one sister, Judith Keith Gott of Atlanta, and two brothers, Randy Keith and Kerry Keith of Jackson. In addition to listed family members, many cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and friends will mourn the loss of Ed’s quick smile and generosity.
Visitation will be held at Chancellor Funeral Home in Bryam on Thursday, September 8, from 1:00 - 3:00 PM. Given that Ed was not a formal nor religious man and that he didn’t particularly care for events that required people to wear long pants, no formal service will be held. Instead, those who were close to Ed are invited back to his house for food, fellowship, and a few beers. We will even have non-alcoholic varieties as Ed stopped drinking later in life.