Keith Erlewine, 84, was born on December 29, 1933 in Ogallala, Nebraska, and reared on the same ranch where his father, William Dale, was born in a sod house in 1900 (not far from the Oregon trail).
His twin brothers, Dale and Gale, were 8-1/2 years older. Tragically, when he was 16, Keith’s mother, Leora, died when the furnace exploded. Keith valiantly rendered aid, by himself, fifteen miles from the closest town.
Keith attended country school and participated in sports and music at Perkins County High School. He received an undergraduate degree in agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1955 and was a proud member of the Farmhouse Fraternity.
As a senior, Keith married his college sweetheart, Rosemary Manning, on June 5, 1954, and they embarked on a magical life long journey together. (Keith’s brother Gale had married Rosemary’s sister Lucille six years earlier. The two couples’ children, however, look nothing alike.)
Upon graduating, Keith joined the United States Air Force, through ROTC, for three years, where he learned to fly the military’s first fighter jet (the F-86). As part of his training, Keith (and Rosemary) travelled from base to base throughout the United States, hauling a 35-foot trailer (picture Lucy in the Long, Long Trailer movie). To make living in a small trailer even more memorable, Keith and Rosemary had two wonderful sons; Randy born in Lincoln, Nebraska and Kris born in Winterhaven, Florida.
Upon returning to Lincoln, Keith joined the Nebraska Air National Guard as a fighter pilot, obtained a Masters of Arts Degree in Agricultural Economics, and then appraised real estate. Lovely daughter, Karen, was born in Lincoln (first girl in the Erlewine family in 70 years). In 1966, Keith followed his dreams and became a pilot with Pan Am and the family moved to San Francisco. A year later, the family trekked to Arden Oaks in Sacramento where they have lived for fifty years.
Over the next 25 years, Keith was based for Pan Am in both New York while flying the Atlantic routes (batching with other pilots in a cramped apartment between trips) and in San Francisco while flying the Pacific routes, commanding planes ranging from 707s, 737s, 747s and A310s. Other pilots frequently complimented his flying abilities.
Keith flew President Ford’s press plane and had the comedian Terry Thomas bring a dead duck on board (where of course it was properly prepared and perfectly served halfway through the flight - oh those were the days!). Rosemary frequently accompanied Keith on his trips, as did the children- the highlight being a family African Safari in 1976.
In 1991, Pan Am unexpectedly went out of business. Unable to secure another flying job because of a then 60-year age limit for pilots (now increased to age 65), Keith returned to his profession of commercial real estate appraisal in Sacramento for the next fifteen years, retiring five years ago.
Keith and Rosemary were devoted members of the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento, California for fifty years, serving on church boards, singing in the choir for many years and actively contributing to the church’s Heifer Project to combat poverty.
They had unending devotion to their three children and -six grandchildren (Emily Erlewine; Kathryn, Robert and Elizabeth Lowman; and Jake and Clay Erlewine), who frequently visited them in the summer.
Their great passion and source of pride, working side by side for hours, was gardening, maintaining an enormous vegetable garden (which consistently provisioned the church sharing table to benefit Heifer International), along with large flower gardens. Together they enjoyed traveling, staying at B&B’s, ballroom dancing, tennis, playing bridge and were members of the same gourmet group for thirty years. Keith and Rosemary were the definition of one.
An avid reader, he especially enjoyed stories about history and flying. Keith was active in SIRS (Sons in Retirement), a docent at the Sacramento Air Museum (where pilots told flying stories, some of which were probably true), and served as President of the Arden Oaks Homeowners Association. He was also a lifelong University of Nebraska football fan (Go Big Red!).
Keith is survived by his wonderful bride Rosemary, their three children Randy, Kris and Karen (Lane Lowman) and six grandchildren, his brother Gale (Lucille) and sister-in-law Kathe. He was predeceased by his parents, William Dale and Leora, and brother, Dale.
Keith was a kind and loving husband, father and grandfather and friend to all who knew him. He will be dearly missed and celebrated.
Keith passed away on March 5, 2017.
Graveside services will be Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 11 a.m. at the Grant Fairview Cemetery.