Keith Phillips Williams
Williams, Keith Phillips was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, on April 10th, 1927 and died of cancer at age 89 on July 5th, 2016 in Kirkwood, Missouri. He was surrounded with love from his family and friends who are saddened by his passing. For over 60 years he was married to Phebe Ann Elsworth Williams and he had three sons and seven grandchildren. He was the son of Paul Grant Williams and Mabel Maxine Phillips Williams both from Portsmouth. He had two older brothers, Paul Grant Williams, Jr, (deceased) of Bonne Terre, Missouri, and William Grant Williams II of Ladue, Missouri. A one of a kind individual, Keith was very dynamic with a zest for life and smile for all. In Portsmouth, Keith's family led the Williams Manufacturing Company that specialized in producing women's shoes. This business took the family to several places, including Bronxville, New York, while he was young. There, he contracted polio that affected his legs, and was immobilized in bed with sand bags for weeks. For entertainment, his father tied a live chicken to his bedpost. Miraculously, he recovered. At the age of nine, the shoe business brought his family to St. Louis and they settled in the Fair Oaks neighborhood in Ladue. He later attended John Burroughs School where he enjoyed playing football and was honored to participate as Joseph in the annual Christmas Pageant. During his boyhood summers, his family spent time in Petoskey, Michigan, where he enjoyed Lake Michigan and local blue berries. As a young man, Keith enlisted in the US Navy near the end of WWII and was a lifelong patriot. After the war, Keith had a great experience at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where he joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and witnessed Sir Winston Churchill give the Iron Curtain Speech in 1946. He continued his education at Princeton University and was in the class of 1951. His three sons were all Beta's at Westminster, and he enjoyed returning to the campus. Some of his early hobbies included photography, golf, playing the ukulele, driving big cars and getting his pilot's license. Embracing adventure, he flew an Aeronca Champ, once narrowly escaping a crash landing. In 1951, a beautiful young woman from Connecticut came to visit her Vassar College roommate who lived next door to the Williams family in Fair Oaks. During her short visit to St. Louis, Keith volunteered to take her out to Gaslight Square. Quickly enamored with each other, they fell in love! The long-distance courtship culminated when Keith and Phebe were married on October 8, 1955. The elegant ceremony was performed in the chapel at Rosemary Hall in Greenwich. It was officiated by Phebe's uncle, The Reverend Clarence R. Wagner and assisted by Dr. Robert B. Appleyard, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Greenwich. Their wedding trip was to Bermuda, and the return flight went through a very perilous, cyclonic storm! Their plane was the only one that landed at LaGuardia Airport that day, and the newly married couple was happy to be home safely to start their life-long journey together. Securing a southeastern traveling sales position with Brown Shoe Company, Keith settled in Aiken, South Carolina. The young family soon grew with sons Kip and Ned arriving. Keith and his family enjoyed trips to nearby Hitchcock Woods, Hunting Island and Augusta to watch the Masters Golf Tournament as a member of Arnie's Army. Deeply Republican and interested in politics, Keith once was persuaded to run for congress in a very heavily Democratic South Carolina. He lost that election but continued to fight for Republican candidates the rest of his life. Ten years passed before an entrepreneurial opportunity enticed him back to Missouri early in 1964. Keith founded Good Earth Tools with his brother Paul's help in a small garage adjacent to the original US Tool Grinding building in Desloge, Missouri. After some start up challenges, his young business began manufacturing carbide percussion drill bits for the hard-rock underground mines located nearby. Resourceful and determined, he found success handmaking these parts and delivering them to customers in his VW Beatle. Calling on customers in many states, sales remained deeply embedded in his character for the rest of his life, earning him the nickname of Keith Sell-Something Williams. With two young sons and a new business, Keith and Phebe purchased the former WPA built John J. Rowe School House in Kirkwood's beautiful Sugar Creek Valley. The Ballas Palace has been the family home since 1964. Keith had a green thumb and planted climbing roses, yew bushes and forsythia in the front yard and beefsteak tomatoes in the back. Around the house, Keith loved his pets, including dogs, ducks, chickens, guinea pigs, a raccoon and a crow. In 1968, the family outgrew the VW as son Jon was born in Kirkwood, adding to their busy lives. With three active boys, Keith enjoyed coaching Khoury League Baseball and Kirkwood Junior Football, Big River float trips, Boy Scout camping and cookouts, and things with motors. All his life, Keith was particularly interested in computers and electronics, CB's, ham radios, ship to shore communications, police scanners, and entrepreneurial ideas, frequently combining them in his creative ventures. He remained a member of the Kirkwood community for the rest of his life and enjoyed contributing to Mudd's Grove, the museum home for the Kirkwood Historical Society. One of his favorite places to visit was Colorado where he loved to go skiing, hiking and camping. He enjoyed hot tubs, cocktails, wine, O'Connell's Pub and St. Louis Blues Hockey. He also valued the solitude at Keith's Castle, his small cabin overlooking the Meramec River in St. Clair, Missouri. Keith, Phebe and their boys enjoyed many summers at their beach cottage on The Strand nestled near the shores of Long Island Sound in Waterford, Connecticut. Fifty-two years after founding Good Earth Tools, it has grown to over 160 employees, hundreds of customers, and sales in many countries. He was very appreciative and proud of the many employees and people who helped him along the way. From 1982 to 2006, he was a director of Escalade Incorporated, the successor of Williams Manufacturing Company. He was a long time member of the Commerce Bank Business Advisory board. The entrepreneurial spirit was with him the rest of his long life. After he retired, Keith's hobbies focused on his family heritage, particularly his Welsh ancestry, photography, computers, Internet research, political chat rooms, and email communications with many people. For a number of years he authored K-Mail, which was a provocative email communication in the Kirkwood community with thousands of subscribers. Genealogy research was his passion, and he wrote, printed and bound a number of fascinating books on family history. He would teach genealogy research and traced many a family's roots back to the 1600's. Although he never ran for office again, he encouraged everyone to vote Republican and always thought taxes were too high! Vote early and often! was his call to all who would listen and discuss politics with him. Keith had many sayings, and often would call out Shall we press on, It's the berries, or I will take care of it! Most certainly, Sell something was his favorite line. Special thanks goes to Dr. Glennon J. Fox, who attended to Keith as a physician and friend for many years. Keith called his life a great journey and wanted to express his love and devotion to Phebe and his family. His wish was to keep the family together! He worked hard to make that happen and instilled that strong belief in his sons and grandchildren. Keith is survived by his wife, Phebe Ann Elsworth Williams, and three sons - Keith \Kip Phillips Williams, Jr., (wife Julie Ann Jones, and daughter Anne Maren Williams) - Edward \Ned Elsworth Williams (wife Constance \Connie Rowland Bishop and sons Edward \Teddy Elsworth Williams Jr, Elliott Bishop Williams, and Ian Rowland Williams) Jonathan \Jon Gaston Williams (wife Sharon Lynn Meyers, daughter Jennifer Meyers Williams and sons Jonathan \Jack Gaston Williams Jr, and Tyler Wilson Williams Cremation and no service was his wish. Interment will be private. Donations to The Keith Williams Memorial Fund can be made at or mailed to The Maren Fund, Inc., 329 Way Ave, St. Louis, MO 63122. The charity provides educational programs and services to families with Down Syndrome children in the St. Louis area.

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Published by St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Jul. 25, 2016.
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12 Entries
Goodnight Uncle Keith. I first remember you, waiting at the bottom of my Bama's long winding staircase, looking like Clark Gable, with a dashing smile on your face. I would watch Phebe, lovely in her long gown, come swishing down the staircase with a smile on her face. I was the flower girl at your wedding. You were our favorite Uncle, chasing Peter, David and me throughout the trees in Bama's backyard and you always, almost caught us. What a life you continued to have; founding your successful business, having three bright handsome sons and then grandkids. Thank you so much Uncle Keith for offering my Dad and me to stay at the Strand when he was so sick. We cherished that time together, remembering when he met my Mom, growing up there and our many cherished time of our summers on the Strand. You are loved and will be missed. Good night Uncle Keith.
Susan Starbuck
August 13, 2016
Keith was one of a kind. As a customer he always encouraged me ... A favorite line many have heard " go sell something!" was classic Keith. I will cherish the many memories from who gets to pick up the check playing 0-1,000 game, talking about conservative causes, hearing some family history and of course, having a "toddy for the body". You will be missed but certainly not forgotten!
Phil Cady
August 1, 2016
I had the privilege of working with Keith on helping put our family history book together. Keith's daughter inlaw Julie Jones my cousin was married to Kip WIlliams, one of Keith's sons. We spent countless hours together and I learned so much from Keith who was "larger than life.". I will always treasure the time we spent together!
Kenneth Mihill JR.
July 31, 2016
Keith was one of the finest men I ever knew. A great BETA and friend.
July 29, 2016
Amazing man with such character and grace. I know he will be greatly missed but cheers to a life well lived on his own terms!
Carla Newton
July 26, 2016
David joins me in sending our condolences to you all. What a wonderful man Keith was! It's been too long since we saw you all in Waterford!
Warm regards, Gay Gaston
July 26, 2016
Ian and I are so very sorry for your loss. This was a beautiful tribute to a man who lived a happy and fulfilled life. I know your dad will be sorely missed. God bless him and your family.
Concie/Ian Fowler
July 26, 2016
My thoughts are with you all at this sad time. My late husband Tony Partridge held Keith in very high esteem. God bless you all. Kindest regards Jane Jones (was Partridge) UK. Xx
July 26, 2016
What a great tribute to a life well lived. RIP Mr. Williams.
Joe Wagner
July 25, 2016
All my prayers and sympathy are with the Williams family. We loved Kip and he will be missed. May God comfort you and hold Kip in his loving arms forever.
Pat Richesin
July 25, 2016
Mr. Williams was one of the finest men I ever met. He took me under his wing as a young man and treated me so well. My heart breaks with his departure from our world. He truly made all of us better people just by being able to know him. God bless him and his fabulous family. I am honored to have known Mr. Williams, a true gentlemen!
John Mather
July 25, 2016
My deepest sympathy to the family . I met Keith in 2000 online . Then met him in person several times . He was a great guy and will be missed by many .
Jim Huber
July 25, 2016