Moss Alumni Profiles
Phil Keathley - 1960 Graduate
This Profile was written using Phil's answers to my questions - Jerry Summy
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   This is where my background in Entomology began to be noticed.  Mr. Raunikar took me to Stillwater and introduced me to Dr. D. E. Howell, Head of the Department.  Dr. Howell was impressed but wondered why I hadn’t applied for a scholarship.  My college entrance scores were impressive enough.  This is where my total ignorance came out in full display.  I had never even thought of it and the term “scholarship” was not even a part of my vocabulary.  Mr. Raunikar also seemed flummoxed by the question.  I wondered why he had not mentioned it.  Suddenly, my recent past came flooding to my mind.  Only a month earlier in that spring of 1960, Phil Wood and Frank Seiber came up to me and asked me if I wanted to go to Ada, Okla., on Saturday and take the ACT test.   I didn’t hesitate.  I said, “Sure!”  This event would change my life.  Although it had never even entered my mind, I bowed to peer pressure and accompanied them to Ada to take the ACT.  I think Larry Richmond also went with us.  So, there was good reason why I had not applied for a scholarship.  I realized I was merely a country bumpkin who really had no thought of higher education beyond high school.  Now things were changed and I was to be employed as a summer research intern under Dr. D. E. Howell of OSU.  Mr. Raunikar and I roomed together for the first month that summer as he took some continuing education course put out at the college.  And I worked with  a graduate student of engineering whose father was a prominent agronomist at the college and who had an in with Dr. Howell.  The graduate student (Charlie Henderson was his name) and I spent the summer putting out small research trials, gathering data and making observations.  I was hugely infected with my Hughes County drawl and Henderson rode me every day to clean up my speech and try to pronounce words correctly.  I bought a dictionary and spent evenings for the rest of the summer after Mr. Raunikar left trying to learn the definitions and pronunciations of words.  It became an obsession with me.  I didn’t go anywhere at night and I studied all the time.  Then came August 31, a date which would live in infamy, as Roosevelt said.  Dr. Howell had paid an airplane pilot to spray several insecticidal compounds on various pastures owned or leased by the university at Lake Carl Blackwell 30 miles west of Stillwater.  Charlie and I got out there early and we saddled up our horses and headed for the pastures.  Through the day, we stopped periodically, waited for horse flies to land and captured them in a bottle.  At the end of the day, we were to assess the effectiveness of the various insecticides by counting how many horse flies were on the horses.  After the last count was made, Charlie, about 100 feet to my left, challenged me to a race back to the barn.  We took off at full gallop but he had a head start and was clearly in the lead.  I was spurring my mount at full speed but, unwisely, I was next to the barbed wire fence.  Just ahead, the wire gate had been left open and the strands were deep in the foot-high grass.  I had no clue what was going on.  I only knew that I must catch up with Charlie who was making a fool of me.  I spurred my horse ever faster.  Until we got to the downed wires.  This is where my memory fails me.  I cannot tell you what happened.  A grinning Charlie looked around to see how close I was getting.  He could not believe his eyes.  I was nowhere in sight.  Then he saw the horse that I had been riding stumbling to his feet, clearly with sliced legs bleeding profusely.  He hobbled away.  Charlie quickly whirled his horse around and rode to the spot where I had fallen.  Dismounting, he looked at the deadly pall on my face and horror came over him.  He saw death in my eyes.  He grabbed my wrist and listened.  Praise God!  He found a pulse.  He quickly mounted up and rode as fast as he could to the barn.  He and the foreman drove the pickup to the site and they gingerly loaded me into the bed.  Charlie tenderly cradled my battered and bleeding head in his palms as the truck rumbled  over rutted roads back to Stillwater and the hospital.  My family was summoned and came to my bedside.  My dad had recently had an operation on his forehead for skin cancer.  But he was there for the 12 long days I lay in a coma.  They prayed without ceasing.  On the day the fall semester was to begin, I rode home with my sister and brother-in-law.  For the next three months, I spent in recovery.  After a month my vision returned and I could drive again.  In January, I started the spring semester at OSU and Frank Seiber was my roommate.  I would finish four years at OSU and then my Master’s Degree.

   In the spring of 1966 as I was well into my Master’s Degree program at OSU, I was a teaching assistant in a couple of labs.  Two of my students were U.S. Navy officers who were being sent back to college by the Defense Department to get their Ph.D.’s.  I had several conversations with them and they told me how I could apply to the Navy and go in as an officer.  They were in need of Entomologists as the Viet Nam War was heating up and mosquitoes and other disease carriers were wreaking havoc on our soldiers.  I was able to apply for a Direct Commission and, due to my extensive field experience in Entomology, I was selected to be a new Ensign.  I drove to Oklahoma City, took my physical which I passed and my written exam and was inducted into the Navy as an officer.  I finished my thesis in August, graduated with a Master’s Degree and went home to Hughes County to wait for my assignment.  The date was November 3 and my car was loaded up. I bid farewell to my parents and I drove to East St. Louis for the first night.  On November 4, I drove to Wheeling, West Virginia, and stayed the second night.  On November 5, I drove to Bethesda, Maryland, and checked in at the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters.  For the next month, I was in a short course put on by the School of Hospital Administration.   I was a Medical Entomologist and others in my class were Psychiatrists, Optometrists, and other medical professionals.  One the first day, I had met a few of my colleagues.  Then the teacher came in, we all rose to attention.  When he asked for a volunteer to be the adjutant to call the class to order every morning, someone in the back said, “I nominate Oklahoma!”  So, for the next 30 days, I called the class to order every morning.  After that 30 days, I would be assigned duty at the National Naval Medical Center next door and serve for the next eight months in the Naval Medical School as an Entomologist.  Someone heard me sing, and I was asked to be the Music Director for the Chaplaincy which held a church service every Sunday.  I wanted to do it but circumstances had, by this time changed so dramatically, that I had to decline.  It happened on Sunday morning, November 12, my first Sunday there.  I had looked in the local telephone book for a church to attend.  I found one advertised that was close to the base.  My new friend, Vern, and I set out to attend the church.  Fortunately, I had found a second or Plan B church just in case.  We drove up to the first church but we saw almost no cars in the parking lot.  We decided to go to Plan B.  We drove into D. C. and parked at the Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church.  We very much enjoyed the service but at this time I had no idea what was in store for me.  I was totally clueless to what was about to happen.  Vern and I noted that the College and Career Group was having a get-together the next Saturday night and all of us singles and young marrieds were invited.  Vern was married and his wife was in Pennsylvania but he said he would go with me to the get together.  So, the next Saturday night, November 18, 1966, the two of us drove in my car  to the Bank’s residence in Bethesda.  We descended the stairs to the basement where we were to assemble and my eyeballs almost fell out.  There at the punchbowl serving cups of punch was the most beautiful young lady I had ever seen.  In typical Okie verbosity, however, I introduced my self as she dipped me a cup of punch.  I noted on her nametag that she had written “Florence” and I immediately said, “Florence Nightengale, nice to meet you!”  Noting she was not very impressed, I said little to her for the rest of the evening but occasionally checked her out and had a good time with the events including the singing.  So, we left and went back to the BOQ for the night.  The next morning, Vern and I went back to the church and we enjoyed the services.  But I did not see Florence.  That evening, Vern decided not to accompany me so I drove alone to WSBC and attended the Baptist Training Union, a class that intended to teach doctrine, which I had been attending in Oklahoma for five years.  I sat down preparing for the study when my eyes fell on a young lady sitting just four feet away.  It was Florence and she was unaccompanied, by a man, at least.  After Training Union, I went into the sanctuary and sat close to the front.  A few minutes later, I was struck dumb when a group of young ladies sat on the pew in front of me.  And right directly in front of me was Florence.  Summoning my courage, I tapped her on the shoulder, she turned around and I whispered, “May I come up and sit by you?” She nodded an affirmative and I moved up to beside her.  After the service, her roommate took her car to their apartment and I took Florence to a small café nearby for hot tea and a sandwich.  This was the beginning of a relationship that has lasted for more than 42 ½ years.  I discovered she also was a Registered Nurse and worked at DC General Hospital and she was from Portland, Oregon.  We were married on September 2, 1967, in Washington, D. C., and we spent the next two years in Alameda, California, where I finished my Navy active duty.

   I was separated from active duty early so I could attend the University of Georgia to work on my doctorate in Entomology.  So, Florence and I drove to Athens, Georgia, where I spent the next three years obtaining my Ph.D. degree in Entomology.  Our daughter, Laura, was born on April 2, 1970.  Florence worked as a Registered Nurse at a hospital in Athens.  I graduated with my Ph.D. degree in 1972.  Our son, Craig, would be born one year later in Walnut Creek, California, on May 19, 1973.

   Upon receiving my doctorate, I was hired by Dow Chemical and we traveled to Walnut Creek, California, where I assumed my duties.  After two years at Dow, I went to work for Gulf Oil Chemicals Co., in Merriam, Kansas, but my home and territory was in the west and we lived in Concord, California.  After seven plus years, I went to work for DuPont and had California and Arizona in my territory.  After two years, I went out on my own working for J. Phillip Keathley, Inc.  Now 28 years later, I am retired and moving to Tennessee.  Just in these past years, I have contracted, applied, evaluated statistically, and written more than 1000 reports, the sum total of which would be equivalent to seventy 300-page books.  And I typed almost all of them.  Our son, Craig, assisted me with a few field trials and, I discovered, is an excellent writer and wrote some of these later reports.  I was also the primary reporter for our local weekly newspaper, The Ripon Record, for five years.  I interviewed many local people and wrote many articles in addition to local news events stories..  I was also an adjunct professor of biology at Stanislaus State University for five years and also a year at the University of the Pacific teaching human anatomy and physiology.  I was also one of the five Grand Marshalls three years ago for our annual Almond Blossom Festival and Parade held each February in Ripon.  I wore my Lieutentant Commander’s uniform during the parade that honored our service personnel.  I am also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Gideon since 1991. I have given the Gideon message at many churches in northern San Joaquin County.  I was church music director for 12 years at the First Baptist Church of Ripon.


   My wife, Florence, is the mother of two, the grandmother of six and a wonderful and delightful  companion.  We have worked and worshipped together all these years.  She is a retired RN and keeps herself busy with volunteer work.  We both are in excellent health and we look forward to many more years together.

   Our daughter, Laura, and her husband live in Tennessee.  A year ago, he applied for an opening with Lifeway, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.  They were doing a nationwide search.  He was interviewed and offered the position in Nashville.  They moved from Ripon to Tennessee six months ago when they had five children, Daniel, Jeremy, Jedidiah, Johnny, and Stella.  Last November, Elsa was born and they have a wonderful family residing on five acres.  Craig, our son, and his wife, Krista, live in Lexington, KY, where he is completing his Ph.D. requirements in Entomology.  They are expecting their first child late in March.


   We thank God every day for our family and how He has so richly blessed us.  My parents and four of my siblings have passed away.  My wife has a brother, Dale, and his wife Cecilia, and sister, Sharon and her husband, Bob, all who live in Oregon that we see them regularly.  My two sisters and three brothers live in Oklahoma and Texas. 

   I may do some part time consulting in Tennessee in the coming year.  The Emerald Ash Borer is a burgeoning threat to most living ash trees in the Eastern United States.  I may have the opportunity to help battle this looming pest threat. 

   I like to write, keep records, golf, wilderness hike, take pictures, and a host of other things.  I have been singing in choirs for 49 years and very much enjoy this.  I have been a soloist, quartet member, Men’s Glee Club member, University Chorus member, music director, and worship leader.  These are not really hobbies but a way of life.  Our house in Tennessee will be right next to a golf course.  We look forward to attending the 2010 Moss Reunion on May 29. 


    It has been nearly 50 long years since I graduated from Moss High School and, basically, I left the country, first going to Oklahoma State University for nearly six years, secondly to Washington, D. C. for nearly a year and finally to California for more than 37 years interrupted by three years in Georgia.  It has been an adventure I would not trade for anything.  I have had opportunities not open to many of my colleagues and fellow alumni of Moss High.  I could not begin to put into words the great appreciation I hold for all of you for the way you befriended me, gave me encouragement, and stood beside me in every circumstance.  I hold high my excellent teachers who expended their lives so that I along with my fellow alumni might live a better, more exciting and fulfilling life.  Their reward is huge including what they could see in the alumni products of their devotion to teaching tasks.  I congratulate all of you for being alumni that travel each year to the annual reunions and deliver your own versions of appreciative comments.  Let it be said that your words do not go unheard and that you are laying down a solid framework for the next generations of alumni that are produced by the great institution of Moss High School.  The record of your achievements will be recorded for all of posterity to observe and to emulate.  Thank you once again for the friendship and acceptance you have shown to me.

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