|Death: ||Oct. 10, 2008|
KEITH, John W. Jr., 81, of Richmond, passed away Friday, October 10, 2008. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Gloria Conte Keith; and his two daughters, Diane "Di" Keith Jones and her husband, Ambrose, and Judy Keith Davis and her husband, Arthur; seven grandchildren, Brian and Michael Jones, Matthew, Christin, Nathaniel, Caitlin and Mark Davis; and six great-grandchildren. Jack attended Virginia Military Institute (VMI) majoring in Civil Engineering from 1944 until 1946, when he was called upon by his country to serve in the US Army. Upon his return from active duty, he entered the University of Virginia law school where he received his Juris Doctor degree in 1951 after also being admitted to the Virginia Bar. He served as an intern assisting the head of the United Nations legal department in 1950. As a real estate attorney in the Richmond area, Jack represented various European investors and was very instrumental and innovative in commercial and land development. Two of his more notable projects were Riverside/Briarwood and Hathaway Tower. Burial will take place at Arlington National Cemetery and a celebration of Jack's life will be held between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. Friday, October 17, at Hathaway Tower Party Room, 2956 Hathaway Road, Richmond, Va. 23225. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the VMI Foundation Fund, in memory of John W. Keith Jr., P.O. Box 932, Lexington, Va. 24450.
Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 10/12/2008 - 10/13/2008
An article from Richmond Times-Dispatch
Key James River Park visionary, land donor J.W. Keith Jr. dies
Real estate lawyer and developer built Richmond-area landmarks
Friday, Oct 17, 2008 - 12:08 AM
By ELLEN ROBERTSON
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
During the mid-1960s, John William "Jack" Keith Jr. and his former Virginia Military Institute roommate, Charles Joseph Schaefer, looked at nearly 2 miles of James River islands, shores and riverbeds and envisioned a place to preserve and a place for the public to play.
Mr. Keith, a Richmond real estate lawyer and developer who, with Schaefer, acquired those riverlands and gave them to the City of Richmond, died Friday in a local hospital. He was 81.
A celebration of his life will be held today, Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m. in the party room of Hathaway Tower, 2956 Hathaway Road in Richmond, a property he helped develop. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery.
In the 1960s, most land along both sides of the James was owned by a railroad, developers or individuals, which made the river off-limits to most of the public.
Mr. Keith and Schaefer traced ownership of the riverlands between Reedy Creek at Forest Hill Park and Powhite Creek at the Willow Oaks Country Club to a 1789 land grant. They located a long-lost heir and told her they wanted to preserve the islands, shores and riverbeds. She agreed to relinquish her rights to them. They went to court and quietly acquired the deed to the property.
The city agreed to acquire the land from them for recreational uses in 1966. In a written statement at the time, Mr. Keith said, "Joe and I hope . . . that other property owners in the area to be developed will thereby be encouraged to act out of a sense of public spirit and civic pride to transform this dream into reality."
When the federal government approved a James River Park System in 1972, the former roommates signed over the deed to the city and the riverlands became the first acquisition for the park.
Thousands visit the park to canoe, kayak, fish, jog, boat, bike, sunbathe, explore wildlife along nature trails and do historical study. The system now includes more than 500 acres along about 8 miles of the James from the Huguenot Bridge eastward beyond the I-95 bridge.
"My dad loved the water. He was very, very proud of being able to do this," said a daughter, Judy Davis of Ashburn. Another daughter, Diane "Di" Jones, lives in Greensboro, N.C.
Mr. Keith's developments include Richmond's first high-rise condominiums, Hathaway Tower, the Riverside-Briarwood Health and Fitness Center and a related subdivision with a street named for him, the Mount Vernon Apartments and Bon Air Station subdivision.
A Richmond native, Mr. Keith attended VMI as a civil engineering major before being drafted into the Army.
He returned from active duty to study law. He was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1950.
Survivors, besides his daughters, include his wife of 56 years, Gloria Conte Keith; and seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Gloria Vivian Conte Keith (1926 - 2010)*
Arlington National Cemetery
Created by: Robert Munson
Record added: Oct 29, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 30957986