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Kay Keating's grandfather, John Frances Keating, came to Pueblo in 1872, rode the stagecoach to Beulah, experienced the beauty, and believed it was as close to paradise as he could get. Kay's grandfather bought 15 acres here, built a house, and raised seven children. He was the superintendent of schools in Pueblo and after his death, Keating School was named for him which is now The Keating Learning Center for the learning disabled. Her father, Lawrence Keating, later built a house and married Cecil Jordan. Kay's parents were married just before WWI and both served their country when war broke out. Lawrence was a Coast Artillery Officer in France and Cecil drove an ambulance for the Red Cross in Washington. Speaking lovingly of her parents, Kay remembers, "I saw the world from sitting on his shoulders and looking over his head. I held on to his forehead to keep from falling off. And my mother was very short, barely five feet tall. She needed 2X4s and rubber bands attached to the floor pedals of the ambulance so that she could drive." Their honor and commitment to serve God and Country, cherish freedom, nurture family, respect nature, and preserve beauty and life, is carried on by Kay Keating.
Kay was in her third year as a pharmacy student when WWII broke out. "Women weren't supposed to serve in the military," explained Kay, "but the girls had learned typing and could do it ten times faster than men. Two thousand women went to Hunter College in New York. Four hundred women were chosen to serve as radio operators." Kay was one of these women. Her group took care of all radio traffic for the Patrol Fleet within the West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands, and later all radio traffic in the Pacific. The women serving didn't know what was said in Morse Code. Everything was encrypted, and everything was important. Under law, all women were to be separated from service 180 days after cessation of hostilities. "The war seemed over for us," Kay said, "but then they discovered they couldn't get along without us!" Two months later Kay received a letter that requested her to return to Buckley Field in Denver for the National Guard and Naval Reserve. Kay said she would do it only if she could work nights and pursue her pharmacy degree. Kay received her degree, was commissioned as an officer, and her first assignment in the Medical Service Corp was at the Pharmacy Tech School in San Diego. At sea, Kay served on the hospital ship, the USS Haven and was deployed to Korea. "All the hospital ships had tender names, the USS Hope, USS Rescue and others."
After the prisoner exchange and peace was signed, two ships went home. The USS Haven and another ship were diverted to Saigon and rescued the French Foreign Legion Troops in Dien Bien Phu, took troops to North Africa and then to Marseilles, France to let off French officers, and then towards home crossing through the Panama Canal. During her 30 years of service, Kay received the Meritorious Service Medal, was Chief of Pharmacy Services at the Naval Hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois, and was promoted from Commander to Captain to earn her four gold stripes. During the Viet Nam War Kay taught Japanese interns in military hospitals. "My plum before retirement was reviewing the new troops at the Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois." She shared photographs and one young recruit was standing before Kay with his weapon. "I just know he was shaking in his boots." President Clinton told Kay once at an awards ceremony that she was owed a debt. "Not me," said Kay. "It's the woman there, who was POW, one of thirty-seven military nurses imprisoned." The president asked the woman how she and the other nurses survived when so many men perished. The woman replied, "We lived because we had something to do. We kept as many men alive as we could. The men were in despair. They had nothing to do and we took care of them."
Kay hates the drought, stays home to keep watch over the KK Ranch and animals, and hopes for rain. She remembers being a child and bringing clear, clean, good-tasting water uphill from the creek in two buckets to stay balanced and try not to slop it out. Now she carries around heavy, five gallon containers of water, takes "Marine Baths," and misses the healing fragrance of lilacs that didn't bloom this spring. "In the 1930s, when Kansas blew into Colorado, I got a job herding turkeys. Their job was to eat the grasshoppers that ravaged the wheat fields in Beulah. My job was to carry a gunnysack tied to a broomstick and keep the turkeys on task. I got fifteen cents a week and a chicken every Sunday." Kay remembers taking baths in a washtub on Saturday nights. "The cleanest kid got to go first. That was my sister. I was next and my brother got what was left."
For 10 years Kay Keating dressed as a hack driver with a moustache and drove for 102 weddings all over Colorado in an antique carriage. "The teenage boys who helped me on the ranch dressed as my footmen. I used the same team of white horses. Their names were Port and Starboard." Both horses have since died of cancer, but their pictures are displayed in Kay Keating's warm and welcome home. "You know, I've had the privilege to serve all around the world, seen many places, and met many people. There is no place anywhere that is like Beulah. My grandfather said it right. It is as close to paradise as you can get."The above article appeared in the September, 2002 issue of The Beulah Banner.