One of our favourite people, Gordon Keatch, has retired as our intrepid “getting to know” columnist. In his letter of retirement, Gord wrote that his monthly column in The Southern Yarn about getting to know members was “a most rewarding and interesting experience”.
We are looking for someone to take over the column, but first we thought we’d let you all “get to know” Gord a little better.
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Gordon “Kangaroo” Keatch came to Canada in December 1943 when he began military training as a wireless/air gunner under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). More about this part of his story and how he met his wife Anne is featured in the book “Canada’s War Grooms and the Girls who Stole Their Hearts” by Judy Kozar.
In Gord’s words, “The most exciting part of the war for me was the time spent in Winnipeg because I met my wife there.” Love soon blossomed, and when Gord returned to Australia, Anne followed, and they were married there on November 23, 1946. “Anne’s parents were devastated, of course, as they thought they would never see their daughter again. My family, on the other hand, was ecstatic, and they were delighted and charmed by this Canadian girl who came all the way to Australia to marry me.”
Two years later, Gord and Anne moved back to Winnipeg. “It was now my mother’s turn to be the disappointed parent.”
Gord will tell anyone who asks that moving to Winnipeg was the best thing he ever did. It was here that he and Anne raised two sons and became active in the local community.
For 33 years, Gord worked for local machinery-manufacturing firm Kipp Kelly Ltd., and became involved with many commitments and interests, including the St James School Board, the Niakwa Country Club, and the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Anne was busy volunteering at the Silver Heights Community Club, and later the Manitoba Lung Association and Manitoba Head Injury Association.
As co-founder of the DUCW and president for 49 years, Gord guided the club from humble beginnings to a welcome resource for Aussies and Kiwis who move to and travel through the province. In Gord’s words, “the Down Under Club has become an active, long-standing and popular group here in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba. We are proud to have been a part of this city and province … and have enjoyed fostering Australian, New Zealand and Canadian relations ….”
Gord and Anne always seemed to be doing something in the Club, including hosting informal get togethers, and organising, attending and volunteering at many events and activities. As our way of saying thanks for their enormous contribution, they were awarded the first DUCW Life Memberships in 2000. Indeed, they were such a constant part of the Club that when Anne passed away in December 2006, we all mourned the loss of a gentle soul and a dear friend.
Among his many contributions to the DUCW, Gord also took the time to document and update our history (his latest installment is coming soon), look after the Club’s finances, do the audits, recruit new members, incorporate the DUCW, play the role of newsletter editor’s editor, mail the Yarn, and organise, in particular, the annual ANZAC Day commemoration.
Gord also played a significant role in our first Folklorama pavilion. Peter Debenham remembered the meeting he was at with Gord and Lucia Barron at The Round Table on Halloween in 1992. “We didn’t think we had the resources – people or capital or know how – but the zoo had an Aussie exhibit and we jumped on the bandwagon, deciding ‘If ever we’re going to do it, it’s now’.”
In the hearts and minds of many, Gord’s most enduring legacy will be the “getting to know” column that he has championed since September 2006. By showcasing approximately 150 members, he has definitely helped us get to know each other a little better.
By all accounts, Gord is a true gentleman who is loved and respected for his generous nature, kind heart, relentless community spirit, and willingness to step up and help out. He might be retiring from journalism, but there’s no doubt that Gord will be kept busy enough with his many interests and activities, his good friends, and his close-knit family, which now includes three grandchildren (Allison, Erin and Michael) and two great-grandsons (Ethan and Liam), with a great-granddaughter arriving in mid-December.
There is much more to Gord’s story, but I’m sure he would prefer to tell you himself when you chat with him at the next DUCW event.
Cheers to you, mate!