Jess Keifer - May 28, 2012
way Monday, May 28, 2012, at Mt. Carmel Home in Kearney.
Jess was born April 4, 1919, in Ault, Colo., one of five children of Albert E. and Elsie E. (Stewart) Keifer.
He graduated from Ault High School in 1936. He attended Colorado State College (now the University of Northern Colorado) at Greeley, Colo., where he participated in varsity football and baseball. He was selected as All-Rocky Mountain Conference halfback in the fall of 1939.
After graduation from college, Jess began his teaching and coaching career as an assistant coach at Kamehameha Boys School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was in Honolulu when the Japanese made their infamous attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
After spending over three years in the Army Air Force during World War II, he came to Holdrege in the fall of 1946 as an assistant coach in football, basketball, and track. In the fall of 1947, he became the head football and track coach and continued as the assistant coach in basketball. He served as the head football coach for 25 years, the head track coach position for 37 years and as the assistant basketball coach for 18 years. He also coached cross country after he retired from coaching football.
On Nov. 21, 1948, Jess was united in marriage to Willa Reye Tidvall at the United Presbyterian Church in Minden and to this union two daughters were born: Katherine Ann and Susan Reye. They continued to reside in Holdrege where they continued to raise their daughters.
Upon his retirement from coaching football in 1971, the community of Holdrege raised funds to send Jess and Willa to Hawaii, as a ‘thank you,’ for his service. Jess continued teaching American History until his retirement in 1984.
During Jess’ football coaching career, Holdrege had two undefeated seasons in 1950 and 1958. Holdrege was rated in the Top 10 in Class B by the Omaha World-Herald, 11 of the 21 years Holdrege was in Class B. Then Holdrege was in Class A for four years. Jess’ football teams were named mythical Class B State Champions by the Omaha World-Herald in 1950, 1953, and 1959. Holdrege was rated mythical state champions by the Lincoln Journal-Star in 1957. Other ratings in the Top 5 were three second place and one third place finishes. His football teams won the Central Five Conference Championship in 1950 and the Southwest Conference Championship in 1953, 1958, and 1959. Holdrege shared the Southwest Conference in 1962 with Broken Bow.
Coach Keifer was selected as an assistant coach in the first Nebraska Shrine All-Star Football game in 1959. In 1960, he was selected as head coach and coached the South Team to an upset victory over the North.
In track, Jess’ teams were Nebraska Class B Co-Champions in 1960 and finished in the Top 5 eight other years. He had seven gold medal winners in the state track meet and had four Southwest Conference Championships.
Jess was selected as the Omaha World-Herald Coach of the Year for the 1959-60 school year. He was the first Class B coach to be named Coach of the Year. He was also honored by Kearney State College in 1960 for his outstanding contribution to Nebraska High School Athletics. In 1971, Jess was honored by the Nebraska Coaches Association for his 25 years of Contributions to Nebraska High School Athletics, and he received a lifetime membership in the Nebraska Coaches Association.
In 1980, he received the Binnie and Dutch Award from the Nebraska Coaches Association for Meritorious Service to Track and Field in Nebraska. In 1981 he was honored by Gothenburg High School as the Honorary Referee for the Zorn Relays. In 1978, the Holdrege schools system named their high school football field and track, Keifer Field. Jess was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Survivors include his daughters, Katherine “Kay” Keifer and husband, William Lindsay of Kearney, Susan Wolf and husband, James “Jay” of Albion; grandchildren, Mitchell Wolf of Denver, Colo., Alexander Wolf of Avoca, Iowa, Hilary Wolf of Lincoln, and Spencer Lindsay of Kearney; step-grandchildren, Matthew Lindsay of Chicago, Ill., and Elizabeth Lindsay of Axtell; along with nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
Besides his wife, Willa, who passed away on Sept. 24, 2011, he was preceded in death by his brothers, John Keifer and Everett “Wayne” Keifer; and his sisters: Vera Keifer and Verda Standley.
Funeral services were conducted June 1 at the First Presbyterian Church in Holdrege with the Rev. Dr. W. Kirwin Stewart Jr., officiating.
Interment was held at the Prairie Home Cemetery in Holdrege with Military Honors provided by the Martin Horn American Legion Post 66 in conjunction with the United States Air Force Military Honors Team.
A memorial has been established in his memory and can be designated to the First Presbyterian Church of Holdrege or the Jess and Willa Keifer Memorial Scholarship to be given to a Holdrege High School graduate.
Expressions of caring and kindness can be sent to the family at www.nelsonbauerfh.com
The Nelson-Bauer Funeral Home in Holdrege was in charge of the arrangements.