James C. Keener, USAF Lt. Col., Retired, 76 of Valdosta, Georgia, passed away Monday, January 9, 2006 at home after a lengthy battle with diabetes, renal failure, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Jim was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on November 7, 1929, and was the son of Christopher Tracy and Mattie Chandler Keener. He graduated from Central High School in Chattanooga and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before enlisting in the United States Air Force on December 22, 1950. In 1952 he began pilot training at Bainbridge Air Base, Georgia, and his first assignment as a 2nd Lieutenant was at Turner Air Force Base, Albany, Georgia, flying F-84’s with the 466th Strategic Fighter Squadron. While stationed at Turner, Jim was temporarily assigned to the instrument school as an instructor pilot in the T-33 trainer. During this time he frequently flew his T-33 at very low altitudes over the Bluffton, Georgia home and the Blakely, Georgia high school of his future wife Joan. His flying maneuvers created much excitement for the civilians in the area, and much consternation for his Air Force superiors.
While assigned to the 4025th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas in 1957 and 1958, Jim flew two high-altitude photo reconnaissance planes; the modified RB-57B and the U-2.
Memorable three-year assignments for Jim and his family were Nouasseur Air Force Base, Morocco (near Casablanca); the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Pentagon), Washington, D.C.; and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska (near Fairbanks).
In 1971 Jim retired from the Air Force and moved his family to Valdosta where he and his brother-in-law John Mansfield formed a petroleum distributorship, Keeman Petroleum Co., Inc., featuring Citgo branded fuel. The first self-service gasoline station in Lowndes County began operation in front of the company office on Hill Avenue in 1973. In 1982 Jim became the sole owner of Keeman, and he remained active in the business until a vehicle accident in February 2004 forced his retirement.
He enjoyed attending Valdosta High School football games, Valdosta State University theatrical productions, traveling worldwide, restoring old Buicks, coin and stamp collecting, and attending First Baptist Church of Valdosta where he was a member for 34 years. Jim accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior on April 1, 2004 when the Rev. Mac Weaver of First Baptist visited him in the hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, where Jim was recovering from his accident.
Jim was preceded in death by his father, mother, brother Hubert Tracy Keener, and sister Virginia Keener Gledhill. Survivors include his wife of 49 years, Joan Mansfield Keener, and by his children and grandchildren: Chris Keener, wife Elaine, and children Stephen, Alison, and David of Valdosta; Russell Keener, wife Angie, and children Austin, Aaron, and Justin of Marietta, Georgia; daughter Amanda Keener Agnew and husband Harrison of Cross Hill, South Carolina; close traveling and family friends John and Betty Mansfield of Amelia Island, Florida; special friend and brother-in-law Jim Mansfield of Buford, Georgia; and several nieces, nephews, cousins and their families.
Funeral services will be Thursday, January 12, 2006 at 11:00 a.m. in the chapel of the Carson McLane Funeral Home with Rev. Phil West and Rev. Mac Weaver officiating. Burial with full military honors will follow at Sunset Hill Cemetery. The family will receive friends at the funeral home chapel between 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. on the day of the funeral. The family requests that donations be made to First Baptist Church Building Fund, 200 West Central Avenue, Valdosta, Georgia 31601. Carson McLane Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Carson McLane Funeral Home
2215 North Patterson Street