Jerome Keefe, MD was a country doctor who, after growing up in Minnesota, dedicated over fifty years (1948-2000) of his life to practicing rural medicine on the High Plains of eastern Colorado.
My dad excelled in school and sports. He mentored his two younger brothers, helping them get good grades in math and science. His younger brother Gerald once said, “He had a mind like a steel trap!” Gerald also shared that in every baseball game he watched, he never saw Dad strike out. Once, Dad saved Gerald from drowning. While playing in a local lake, Gerald stepped into a hole and began to flounder. Dad immediately stripped to his boxers, swam out and returned him safely to shore. Interestingly, I never saw my father swim.
When Dad made it into college, money was very tight. He walked two miles to school in order to save ten cents bus fare. After Pearl Harbor, he was drafted. Through an Act of Congress that provided money for officer training and education, he passed a test that got him into medical school. On the day before he started, his sergeant ordered him to march several recruits to the induction center. He gave Dad a rifle to be sure they got there. When Dad returned, he gave the rifle back, took one step away, then pulled three bullets from his pocket saying, “Here, Sarge, you might need these.”
During his storied practice in Eastern Colorado, he was sensitive, compassionate, and clever. Once, he was awakened at midnight by a call from the local barkeeper; off Dad went to the bar to settle an argument. Later when asked why, he said, “I’d rather shut ‘em up at midnight than sew ‘em up at three in the morning!” He was compassionate even to the town drunks. When they ended up at the hospital, Dad got out of bed for them just as he did for anyone else. He talked gently to them and gave them small shots of whisky so they wouldn’t go into delirium tremens, which never happened on his watch. People considered Dad’s presence and bedside manner healing in and of itself.
Daniel Keefe, first-born son of Jerome L. Keefe, is a semi-retired aquatic biologist living in Seattle, WA. The book about his dad, Beloved Physician of the Plains, Jerome L Keefe, MD is available on Amazon: Books—Daniel Keefe.
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