James H. Keeffe, Jr.

Lt. Col. James H. Keeffe, Jr.

Lt. Col. James H. Keeffe Jr (Jim), 92, long-time Bellevue resident, passed away peacefully May 26, 2015.

Jim was born March 12, 1923, in Sioux City, Iowa, the third of six children. While in high school his family moved to Seattle where Jim graduated from Lincoln High School and attended Seattle University.

At the age of ten Jim went for his first ride in an airplane, a small bi-plane piloted by his father. This led Jim to acquire a life-long love for flying that shaped his life. Early in 1941 Jim joined the National Guard. Later that summer he entered the Civilian Pilot Training program learning to fly at a small, grassy air field in Issaquah.

In 1942 Jim joined the United States Army Air Force, became a B-24 heavy bomber copilot and transferred to England as a 2nd Lieutenant to fly combat missions against the Germans. On his fourth bombing mission, over Berlin, his aircraft lost two engines to enemy fighters and flak forcing bail out over Holland. During the next five months, Lt. Keeffe evaded the Germans with the help of the Dutch Resistance in Rotterdam. Eventually he was betrayed, captured, and transferred to the notorious German prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag Luft III – site of the Great Escape. On the 29th of April, 1945, Lt. Keeffe, along with 130,000 other allied POWs, was liberated by elements of the 14th Armored Division under General George Patton and returned home to his family. Following a short period of employment with United Airlines, Jim joined the newly formed United States Air Force and became a fighter pilot and weather officer. He was commander of several combat weather detachments serving in Korea during the Korean War and throughout the Cold War. Jim retired from military life in 1966 as a Lieutenant Colonel and Command Pilot. Jim earned many awards including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, the POW Medal, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf. He logged over 6,000 hours military flying time.

Following his retirement, Jim settled down in Bellevue to raise his family. He worked for Boeing for several years. Afterwards he became active in Bellevue politics, serving on the Bellevue City Council and the East Bellevue Community Council for many years. He continued to fly at every opportunity, in every form of aircraft imaginable from balloons and ultra-lights to jet fighter aircraft.

Jim was deeply loved and highly respected by many people from all walks of life. He was a wonderful loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, and mentor. He is survived by his wife Sandy, daughters Kerry Radley, Leslie Saville, and Tina Soleim, sons Jim, Kevin, and Brian, and fifteen grandchildren.

Military funeral services will be held July 17th 10:30am at Tahoma National Cemetery 18600 SE 240th St, Kent, WA. Those wishing to attend please arrive at 10am. A celebration of Jim’s life will be held July 18th 1-4pm at Westminster Chapel 13646 NE 24th St, Bellevue, WA. All are welcome. RSVP jpsalm_91k@centurytel.net.