'So much in return' Conway woman's mission is to find a need, then fill itREAD ONLINE
Local VFW Ladies Auxiliary member elected Southern Conference presidentPublished November 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
FAIRFIELD BAY — Veterans are near and dear to the heart of Karen McKeever.
“I’ve had two veterans in my life,” she said, pointing out that she has been widowed twice. “Veterans are special to me.”
For the past 30 years, McKeever has worked tirelessly in the Ladies Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She has served on the local, state, district and national levels. She was elected the 2013-2014 president of the Southern Conference at its annual meeting Nov. 2 in Orlando, Fla. That conference includes 14 states.
McKeever first served as chaplain of the Southern Conference, then vice president and now president.
“By the time my term as president ends in 2014, I will have visited each auxiliary in all of the 14 states,” McKeever said. “I started the visits when I was the chaplain.”
Originally from Beloit, Wis., McKeever moved to Fairfield Bay in 1985 and quickly became a member of the Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Post 4513.
“I married an Arkie,” she said with a laugh. “I wasn’t too thrilled to be coming to Arkansas, but once I got here, I loved it.
“Fairfield Bay is a melting pot,” she said. “All of us are here for the same reason — we all quit work, and now we’re so busy that we wonder how we ever had time to work.”
She talked about when she first joined the VFW Auxiliary,
“I was just a card-carrying member. I never went to meetings, never wanted to be active. But after the second meeting here, I was elected president.
“If they catch you, they catch you,” she said.
When asked her age, McKeever said, with a grin, “looking at 71 coming up. I don’t know how that happened.”
She is the mother of two children. Her son, Steven Emanuel, 45, lives in Clinton, Wis. Her daughter, Kristie Robertson, 49, lives in South Beloit, Ill., and is the mother of McKeever’s grandson, Kyle, who is a college student. Robertson is also a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary in her community.
McKeever has nine stepchildren and numerous stepgrandchildren and stepgreat-grandchildren who are “inherited” and live all across the United States.
McKeever is also active in the Ladies Auxiliary, VFW, District 6 Color Guard.
“We just got back from Branson, Mo., where we marched in what they say is the biggest Veterans Day parade in the country,” she said. “It’s a mile-long parade and always begins at 11 [a.m.] on 11-11 [the 11th day of the 11th month, which marked the end of World War I in 1919]. There were over 80 entries.”
Sixteen members of the Ladies Auxiliary, VFW Post 4513, belong to the color guard. They travel extensively, participating in various events and competing against other color guards from across the nation. They have performed in Washington, D.C., at former President Bill Clinton’s inauguration and in Kansas City at the 50th-anniversary observance of the end of World War II.
“We perform at a lot of national conventions all over the United States,” McKeever said. “We’ve brought back nine gold medals and two or three silver medals that I’m going to paint gold.”
McKeever said one of the main purposes of the Ladies Auxiliary is to support hospitalized veterans. Other purposes include promotion of patriotism, raising funds for cancer aid and research, lobbying for veterans’ issues, serving the community and youth, supporting veterans’ families and awarding scholarships to young people through a variety of contests.
McKeever is also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary 37 in McAllen, Texas; the Military Order of the Purple Heart Auxiliary in Fort Smith; Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Mission, Texas; and St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Fairfield Bay. During the winter months, she lives at the Hidden Valley Ranch in Mission, Texas.