BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Between Waterville Rotary, Whitehouse Village Council, the Chamber Partnership and a tax and retirement planning business, Bob Keogh isn’t slowing down.
“You’ve got to keep working the mind,” said the 79-year-old, “not-yet-retired” Whitehouse resident.
As a 1960 high school graduate, the Pittsburgh native didn’t know what he wanted to do for a career. Since he and his father were both active in Boy Scouts, his dad suggested that Bob apply for a Scout scholarship that would provide $500 a year for four years of college if he committed to work for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for three years after graduation.
He stayed for 12 years and loved every minute. Bob was involved in the building of Camp Pioneer as a long-term camping designation for older Scouts while converting Camp Miakonda into a day camp destination for Cub Scouts.
He also led Scout troops to Philmont, N.M. Later, Bob joined friend Carl Snyder on adventures, including hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back – twice.
For as much as he loved the adventures of the BSA, Bob knew that in order to keep moving up, he would need to relocate to a large city – not where he and his late wife Norma wanted to raise their children, Wendy and Tim. So, in 1976 Bob took a job selling insurance with with Jay Dennis Insurance – an agency that he purchased in 1981.
Since moving to Whitehouse in 1979, he’s seen a lot of changes. He recalls Norma’s first impression of the village. The jeweler had bars over the window, and the former theater – now AW Floral – was falling down in the back.
“That’s where Edith Church – the woman who ran the nudist colony – published her magazine,” he said.
Over the years, Bob has always had an office on Providence Street. He bought Spring Valley Financial Service with the late Deena DeLong Pinkleman in 1991, later selling the tax portion in 2005 to Louann Artiaga. Bob owned a property/casualty insurance agency until 2018, when he formed Blue Creek Financial.
He’s also always been involved in the community. Bob spent 20 years as a member of the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals and for the past six years has served as a member of the Whitehouse Village Council.
“Jay told me, ‘If you want to know what’s going on in town, get involved in Whitehouse council,’” he said.
Bob and Norma joined the then-Whitehouse Chamber of Commerce and continued to serve on the board of the Anthony Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Partnership, the financial arm of the Anthony Wayne, Holland-Springfield and Hispanic chambers. In 2012, he and Norma were named grand marshals of the chamber’s Cherry Fest Parade.
As the grandson of Milton Keogh, an Army veteran of World War I, Bob was able to join the Sons of the American Legion at Post 384 in Whitehouse and remains involved in their activities.
In 1998, Bob joined the Waterville Rotary and has seen the organization work to eradicate polio, restore a wetland, support Ukraine relief efforts and give out scholarships.
“I like getting involved in the community and the programming,” he said. “The Monday meetings are educational, and I’ve made friends. It’s a way to get things done for people.”
The Rotary, coordinating with John Henry of Third Street Cigar, is also hosting the Saturday, July 30 Brews, Blues and Brats Festival in downtown Waterville. As in the past, Bob will volunteer to check IDs at the door.
“People come from Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. These blues bands have followers from all over, all coming to Waterville,” he said.
While Wendy was in the Anthony Wayne Marching Generals, Bob put his Scout organizing skills to good use. He recalls the 1982 trip the band took to perform in the Orange Bowl parade in Miami, Fla. Robert Shoemaker, who served as band director from 1966 to 1983, wanted three couples to help him chaperone the 172 students who would be going on the trip.
“Can you imagine? There were bands of 120 kids who had 55 chaperones,” he laughed.
Shoemaker, however, had a good handle on the students and advised the chaperones that he would be in charge of discipline and that their role was to be there to answer questions.
The night before the trip, Shoemaker called to advise Bob that he had a medical condition that might send him to the hospital while in Florida. If that were the case, he told Keogh to find four specific seniors to lead the band.
“I could swear he (Shoemaker) used the Scout handbook,” Bob said, noting that the late director’s leadership skills made the difference in creating a nationally recognized band.
Over the years, Bob has used those Scout skills as well, providing leadership on council and in community organizations.
“The Anthony Wayne Community has given my family and I so much and I feel the obligation to give back,” he said.