John Emmet Keating
December 1, 1934 – November 2, 2019
Lt. Col. John Emmet Keating (USAF-Ret.) died at home, on November 2, with his loving wife, Kathleen Clara Keating, at his side. He was 84.
Mr. Keating was a Houstonian since 2008, where he continued his active and gregarious life in retirement. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, a brother, Michael, his seven children and in-laws: Mary Jo and Timothy Conery, Michael and Susan Katz Keating, Marita Rodriguez, John and Ingrid Keating, Kathleen and Mike Hanafan, Patricia and Scott Templeton, Laureen and John Absher, Christine and Brian Roberts. He is survived by 25 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Joanne Brandes Keating, his sisters Kathleen and Margaret, and his parents, Dr. Joseph and Margaret Keating.
John E. Keating’s life was highlighted by many pursuits and he lived hard and lived big, personified by his service to his country as an Air Force fighter pilot. After graduating from Georgetown University, ostensibly to become a doctor, Lt. Col. Keating headed to Officer Candidate School to fly jets. He served two tours in Vietnam, where he survived more than 200 combat missions, many over the flak-filled skies of North Vietnam, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal twice. He was full of bravado, sometimes bluster, and always principle. He was a member of the “River Rats,” an organization dedicated to supporting the dependents of fallen airmen. He was the embodiment of the Airman’s Creed. He was an American warrior. He answered his nation’s call. He flew, he fought, and he won.
After the Air Force, Mr. Keating was a teacher, a coach, and a wine connoisseur and businessman in Virginia, Arizona and Texas. He obtained a graduate degree from George Washington University and taught wine at Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute, the College of William & Mary, Old Dominion University, and the Women’s Institute in Houston. A perpetually curious student in the oenophile community, he spent his last day, in part, preparing for his monthly mentorship of wine aficionados and neophytes alike. He was an excellent and avid golfer and a member of Westwood Country Club in Houston. He was a high-school athlete in his native New Jersey, loved most sports, and relished the ethos and practice of competition.
John E. Keating cut a large swath through his life and left a long trail of admiration. His children have heard, over and over through the years, “Say hello to your father for me.” His was a Texas-sized personality and countless were drawn to it. From a funeral to a football game, he had the rare ability to make any occasion a celebration of life. His wide array of passions and opinion were balanced by his respect for reciprocated fervor. He had absolutely no pretense from his own endeavors – from the military to wine to sports. He found humor and irreverence in all of them, and he thought others should, too, in their own interests. His rapier wit found many a target, as well as the appreciation of the keen observer.
In addition to his expansive family, including his recently acquired one by marriage, he was a lover of all things Irish, although many of his myriad travel experiences were a close second. He was a member at Ballybunion Golf Club in County Kerry, Ireland, and was a beloved icon of the town. He inherited his father’s love for the country and its people, in particular, the late poet William Butler Yeats.
Like Yeats, John E. Keating was unafraid of death, or its contemplation. Like Yeats, his life was unconventional and he admired Yeats’ self-proclaimed epitaph:
“Cast a cold eye on Life, on Death. Horseman, pass by!”
John E. Keating was a fighter pilot and, as in the pilots’ anthem of “High Flight,” he has “slipped the surly bonds of earth.” He “has put out his hand and touched the face of God.”
Or, more simply, embarrassed by the poetic prose of his outsized life and like shrugging off the reaction of awe from others learning about his raids over Hanoi, John Keating would say, “Enough of that, people. Carry on!”
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please donate at kidneyfund.org or river-rats.org
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m., Dec. 7, 2019 Faith Lutheran church 4600 Bellaire Blvd Bellaire, TX 77401
Faith Lutheral Church
4600 Bellaire Blvd