(I wrote this life sketch of of my dad to be read by my sisters at the funeral today:)
Keith Devon Jensen was born June 4th, 1940, in Huntington, Utah. He was the youngest boy of 8 children. His parents were John Alferd Jensen and Ila Woolman. Until he was 9 years old, he spent summers at his father’s sawmill in Huntington Canyon. He played in the big piles of sawdust and loved the old steam engine whistle.
His parents sent him to Primary and Sunday School. Valiant leaders and neighbors helped Keith learn to love the Lord and to serve Him. His patriarchal blessing promised he would serve a mission, so he was disappointed that he could not afford to go. Much later in life he served joyfully as a ward and stake missionary, going with the full time missionaries to teach and serve many members of his community.
Keith learned to work hard as young man. Fun and games were for other kids. There was always a cow to milk or farm work to do. His father had terrible allergies, so Keith did all of the farm work as a teenager. That work ethic showed in everything he did in his life.
In high school, Keith joined the pep club to be closer to LaRue McElprang, a cute sophomore in the band. Soon they began dating and became sweethearts. While LaRue finished high school, Keith sold his horse in order to attend college in Price. He studied auto mechanics.
Keith would catch a ride from Huntington to Price with his sister-in-law on her way to work in the morning and hitchhike back home in the afternoon to see LaRue. Date money came from a tool pusher job at the college.
LaRue graduated from high school in 1960 and by December of that year Keith gathered enough courage to ask LaRue’s dad for permission to marry her. To his delight, Milton McElprang agreed and on Christmas eve that year, Keith proposed to LaRue. They were married on July 28, 1961, in the Manti Temple.
They moved to Salt Lake City and lived in the old Liberty Park ward. Todd was born a year and a day later and Tyler arrived about three years after that.
Keith worked as a mechanic for about a year then went to work for Linford Brothers Glass. It wasn’t long before he became a journeyman glazer. He installed windows in the old Deseret Gym where he fell from a scaffold and broke his pelvis. Healing was slow but he was back at work some weeks later. As the new guy, it fell to Keith to install windows in the research facility at Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge south of south of Dugway Proving Grounds. On the long dirt road home in the dark, he fell asleep and drove of the road into the desert. When he woke up there was no road and no way to see where it was, so he turned the wheel in the direction he thought he should go until he found the road again, guessing which way was home. He guessed right.
In addition to working as a glazer, Keith and LaRue worked to manage several rental homes owned by LaRue’s father. They loved their friends but longed for a simpler life away from the city. LaRue’s father bought ground in Cedar View and Hancock Cove. Keith and LaRue moved to the Cove in 1966 into a little red brick house. A few years later, Keith and LaRue bought the farm from her father and continued to help manage the herds on the pastures in Cedar View.
Keith farmed and started a dairy which ended in devastation when the herd got out into a fresh alfalfa field and most of the cows died from bloat. It was a monumental struggle, but Keith and LaRue carried on and kept the farm.
Keith gained a reputation among his neighbors as a friend to all with a kind smile, warm handshake, and generosity with his time. He often traded labor with fellow farmers, each helping to harvest silage. He was known to sell hay to many on credit when he knew they would never be able to pay him, and he never worried about getting paid.
Four daughters followed and then a son from 1967 to 1980, Ruth Ann, Melissa, Rebecca, Maria, and David. A few years later Leonardo was adopted from Colombia. A perfect crew for farming and moving handlines. All the children learned to work hard on the farm, acquiring skills and learning a work ethic that have served them all well throughout their lives.
Keith often leased additional farm ground. He was particular about producing good alfalfa hay. He would often rise at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning to go bale hay with the perfect dew on. On one morning, he drove through town to one of those farms just a little too fast. Two young Roosevelt City police officers pulled him over. He didn’t have his seat belt on, so he jumped out of the old Bronco and walked back to the police car.
“Does your mama know where you boys are at this time of night?” he asked.
They told him how fast he was going.
“Oh, that old thing. It can’t even go that fast,” he said.
They asked where he was going in such a hurry.
“I’m going to bale hay. Why? Do you want to come help?” he asked.
No. They did not want to help and waived him on his way.
The farm in Hancock Cove eventually became Sterling Meadows. Other farm ground was acquired and leased. Keith continued to work the farm while LaRue worked at the hospital in Roosevelt. In the mid ‘90s, they moved the family to Ioka where LaRue still lives.
Keith was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving over the years as Sunday School president, Elders Quorum president, High Councilor, Bishop, Young Men’s president, and dedicated ward and stake missionary and home teacher. He loved the people he served and did so because of his firm faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His dedicated service to others led many in our community to renewed faith and activity in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Keith and LaRue’s children have blessed them with 35 amazing grandchildren with 8 spirited great-grandchildren. Two more are on their way. They have all learned to love Grandma and Grandpa spanning many years, each with precious memories of days on the farm. Jaelise, one of the oldest grandchildren (my oldest), put it this way:
“Cowboy shirts. Mint gum. Baling twine. Puttin' around. Rodeo broadcasts. Always teasin'. Four-wheeler rides. Sandwich cookies. Silly faces. Farmers hands. Warm hugs. Sly grins. Morning chores. Biggest heart. Best gramps of a lifetime.
“I wish grandpas never died...”
Keith and LaRue also invited into their home four Navajo foster children, John Thomas, Dorothy Smith-Bain, Ruby Thomas Dickson, and Gilbert James. John has passed on. Mom and the older kids who knew them still stay in touch with the girls. Ruby and Dorothy still call them Mom and Dad. In all they spent a total of 6 years in Keith and LaRue’s home. John spent many additional summers working for Dad on the farm.
Some years ago Mom knew that Dad was losing his ability to remember. Eventually he agreed and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the hardest days in his life was watching his farm equipment being auctioned off after accepting that he would no longer be able to work the farm. He kept a bright smile and appreciated all who came to help.
He continued to do the chores every morning and every night, putting on his coat, hat and gloves, and walking the well worn path to the corrals until finally he could not even remember how to do that. He retained his personality and love of others until the very last.
Mom cared for Dad until she was physically unable to adequately care for his needs. Her hardest day was leaving him at the care center in Vernal last summer. She visited him several times each week.
The caregivers at the nursing home called Mom not many days after he was admitted. They asked if Keith had been a bishop. Yes, Mom said, and asked why. They told her that he spent his day going from room to room, shaking hands and telling residents he was glad to see them and cheering them up. The nursing staff said he changed the whole unit because of this.
His memory may have failed him but his heart never did.