Virgil Keen was a man who lived every aspect of his life as a soldier, husband, friend, Mason, employee, father, grandfather, donor and volunteer to the fullest. Even though he passed away a couple of summers ago at the age of 97, he continues to influence friends, family and those who live and work at the Masonic Village.
After growing up on his family's farm, Virgil served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Once discharged from the service, he worked at the shipyards in Brooklyn, was a New York City police officer, ran his own extermination company and was a bank teller.
"He was a very strong, religious, dedicated, loving, caring man," daughter Karen Spelman says. "I couldn't have asked for a better father. He was always there to lend a helping hand to anyone he was a great role model."
Freemasonry was central to the lives of Brother Virgil, who joined the Masonic fraternity in his early 20s, and his wife, Bernice, who belonged to the Order of the Eastern Star. Their evenings frequently consisted of meetings and family functions related to a Masonic group.
Virgil took his roles as a Mason and as a father to heart. The father of three daughters, he was loving and attentive and covered all life's basic lessons. It was the way he lived, though, that made the biggest impression on daughter Karen. She remembers her father constantly helping neighbors. "If he liked you, he couldn't do enough for you," she recalls.
As a grandfather, he doted on his grandchildren, cooking them his signature oatmeal and spaghetti sauce. He was also a dedicated husband. When Bernice's health began to decline, he cared for her until he could no longer meet her needs. Then, he told his daughters that they were moving to the then-Masonic Home of New Jersey.
The community quickly grew to know and love Brother Virgil. After Bernice passed away, he remained active as always. He volunteered to help in the laundry folding clothes, and assisted the finance department with filing. "Virgil was a very kind man and willing to help with anything," finance team member Cheryl Reed remembers.
"Soon after he passed, there were still signs he was there with me," daughter Karen says. Brother Virgil's impact continues to be felt by others, including the residents of Masonic Village. He always made an annual donation and set up several planned gifts to support the Masonic Charity Foundation. He opened two gift annuities and remembered the Foundation in his Will.
Inspired by the Masonic fraternity, Brother Virgil lived to help others, so it is fitting he continues to benefit those in need after his death. Residents of the Masonic Village continue to feel his spirit every day through the care they receive.