Bob Kefauver's life marked by hard work, love for his wife

September 24, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Francis C. Kefauver, who died Sept. 17 at the age of 89. His obituary appeared in the Sept. 19 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Francis C. Kefauver's life took a dramatic turn at around age 4.

His mother, Esther, was struck by a trolley car in Washington, D.C., where they lived. Because of that accident, or perhaps an existing illness, Esther Virginia Kirby Kefauver died not long after.

Her four sons were divided among relatives. Francis was sent to live with a cousin in Boonsboro.

That's where he stayed and grew roots.

It was from Boonsboro that Francis - known as Bob - left for Fort Meade, Md., his first stop before serving more than a year in Europe with the U.S. Army during World War II.


Boonsboro also is where he stocked shelves and butchered meat at Kefauver's Market, a shop he and his wife, Jean H. Kefauver, ran from 1945 to 1973.

"It wasn't uncommon for Dad to do an 80-hour week," said his son, Robert S. Kefauver, 56.

"But, mostly it was 60 or 70," Jean corrected.

"He enjoyed his customers ..." Robert said. "Dad wasn't afraid of work. He never took shortcuts on anything."

Business at the market boomed in the late 1940s and early 1950s, said Robert, who uncrated eggs and washed windows there as a child.

"Then, supermarkets came," Jean said. "That really changed everything."

When Bob retired, it didn't take long before he was restless to work again, so he took a job as a kitchen manager at the Tortuga Restaurant. After eight years, at age 65, he retired for good.

Jean, who will turn 88 on Tuesday, said she met her husband through their churches at a weekend retreat.

"I didn't go with him," she said, referring to a dating relationship. "We were much too young."

When Jean was older, her mother lobbied her to stay with Bob.

"She said, 'You better hang on to him. Good boys don't grow on trees,'" Jean recalled.

Bob and Jean married on March 24, 1940 - Easter Sunday.

Three years later, Bob was called away to fight.

He trained with the Army's 69th Infantry Division, which was nicknamed "the Fighting 69th." He later was assigned to the 80th Division in Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army.

Bob was wounded twice in Belgium. He described both times in an interview with his grandson.

The first time, his squad went to a house to rest.

"Just as I took my helmet off and laid it down, a German shell came through the roof of the house and exploded in the attic right above us," he said, according to a transcript of the interview. "The fragments rained down through the ceiling onto my head, and I was evacuated by ambulance back to Paris."

About the second time, he recalled, "When I got back to the line, we were assaulting the German Siegfried Line. An artillery shell hit a tree right near me, and I hit the ground, covering my head with my arms, when I heard it coming. The shrapnel rained down on my arm."

Bob received a Purple Heart each time, plus several other medals during his military service.

About 85 years after uncontrollable circumstances brought Bob Kefauver to Washington County, another vehicle accident led to his death.

This time, it was a 2001 Buick LeSabre. He mostly had given up driving, except for short trips around the complex at Homewood at Williamsport, where he and his wife lived since 1988.

Robert thinks his father might have had a ministroke when, on a trip to get mail, he stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake and crashed into a stone wall.

A member of the Halfway Fire Department, Robert was driving a pumper truck that responded to the call.

Jean said her husband, who died several days after the crash, developed pneumonia.

"My mother and dad had absolute dedication to each other," Robert said. "My dad said he believed the most important thing in the world to him was my mother's best interest and whatever made her happy."

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