John Bertice Keelin “Bert”, Age 95, passed away at 6:45 a.m., Friday, February 26, 2021 at his daughter’s home.
Bert Keelin was born in Saline County on June 12, 1925, the son of Bertice Ray and Ora Elsie Smith Keelin.
In younger years, Bert was raised and was active on the family farm. He married Ruth Droit from Thompsonville 68 years ago. They moved to Benton, IL and had three children. Bert received an auto mechanics technical degree by going to night school in Mt. Vernon. Then, he opened his own auto mechanics shop. In 1963, Bert expanded into the auto parts business and moved to the Jackson Street location. There, he started Franklin Auto Parts, continued with the machine shop and to expand the auto parts store, best known for selling American and NAPA parts. He was a pilot and co-owner in two airplanes, which he would use for pleasure and business. He was known to fly as far as Virginia to pick up a part that one of the coal mines needed immediately. In 1980, Bert sold Franklin Auto Parts to Linkon Auto Parts from Centralia. He served as a consultant and sustained the Franklin Auto Machine Shop. In 1986, his son, Darrell, continued the legacy by owning and operating the machine shop and building, now known as Franklin Auto Parts and Machine. Bert assisted the Franklin County Sheriff’s department occasionally in evening hours and had a passion for crappie fishing. Most importantly, Bert Keelin was active in church, First Church of God, First Free Will Baptist Church, and Immanuel Baptist Church. He was strong in his faith and loved his family.
Surviving is his wife, Ruth Janice Droit Keelin and three children with their families as follows:
Surviving is Daughter: Patricia (Pat) Keelin Kern, her children/Bert’s grandchildren: Melissa Mitchell Richardson and husband Tim Richardson, Frank Kern and his wife Patricia (Patty) Liell, Eric Kern, Dr. Brian Kern and his wife Summer, Jason Kern, and his wife Janie Simon, and Megan Kern Williams and her husband, Chris. Pat’s grandchildren, Bert’s great-grandchildren: Gavin and Whitley Richardson, Caden, Charli, Ellsie, Cash, Landon, Hunter, and Collin Mark Kern. Deceased are: Son-In-Law Mark Kern and two great-grandchildren, Kern Williams and Anna Williams.
Surviving is Daughter: Karen Keelin Harrison and her husband, Greg Harrison. Her children/Bert’s grandchildren: Christine Harrison Arrington and her husband, Josh, Derek Harrison and wife, Aimee. Shon Lindsay and wife, Kristy, Leslee Lindsay Copple and husband Jay. Karen’s grandchildren/Bert’s great-grandchildren: Addison Harrison, Houston and Sebastian Arrington, Jayda and Kierra Harrison, Bryce and Brysa Lindsay, Brandt Ramsey, Joey and Cole Copple. Deceased is: grandson, Jason Harrison.
Surviving is Son, Darrell Keelin and his wife Debra “Deb”. His children/Bert’s grandchildren: Kay Keelin and her fiancé, Jeremy Brown, and Kaitlyn Kuchar. Darrell’s grandchild/Bert’s great-grandchild is Trey Keelin.
Surviving are two sisters, Velma Keelin Hall of St. Charles, MO and Vurble Keelin Mahoney, and her husband, Robert “Bob.” Deceased are Bert’s parents and sisters: Verna Keelin Gaddis and her husband Raymond, Dena Lawrence and her husband, John, and Brother-In-Law, Bob Hall.
Surviving are many nieces and nephews. Deceased is one nephew, John Gaddis.
Private Family services will be held Monday, March 1, 2021 at the Leffler Funeral Home of Benton. Burial will be in the Masonic & Odd Fellows Cemetery Benton.
Due to Health Concerns related to COVID-19: Visitation and Funeral services are limited to 50 people at one time; facial coverings are required; and social distancing should be observed. If you are sick, please stay at home.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks consideration of memorial contributions. Donations may be made to the following charities: Rend Lake College Foundation: Bert Keelin Memorial Fund or Immanuel Baptist Church: Building Fund.
To leave online condolences to the family, or to share memories of Bert, visit www.lpfuneralhome.com
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