Donald Keefer’s love of history was matched only by his passion for sharing it with others.
A former Schenectady County, town of Glenville and village of Scotia historian, Keefer, 88, died early Saturday at the Capstone Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Amsterdam.
“He taught me all about history and how to research your family geneaology, and he was such a giving person, so willing to help,” said Kim Mabee, a longtime friend of Keefer and a past president of the Schenectady County Historical Society. “He spent his life collecting information and was so happy to share what he knew.”
Keefer, who worked as a draftsman for General Electric and was an assistant principal at Pashley Elementary School in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District, had a collection of more than 2,000 books at his home in West Glenville.
“He was very generous with his time and very generous sharing whatever knowledge he had,” said Scott Haefner, director of the Fort Johnson State Historic Site. “Nothing was too much trouble for him. He was a great asset to all of our organizations in this area. We had a number of his research files here at Fort Johnson, and I know he shared a lot with other groups.”
Much of Keefer’s collection, either copies or originals, were donated to the Schenectady County Historical Society.
“I remember him as being very generous to the society, both in the contributions that he made through his historic material and some artifacts,” said Edwin Reilly Jr., Schenectady County historian and a past president of the Schenectady County Historial Society. “It’s a great loss.”
One of Keefer’s prize possessions — his family lived in West Glenville for seven generations — was a circa-1840 painting of John Isaac Degraff, a former mayor of Schenectady and member of the U.S. House of Representative. He donated the painting to the society in 1958, and while historic images were all around Keefer’s house, the place was mostly filled with books.
“You walked in the house and every wall surface, from the floor to the ceiling, was covered with books,” said Haefner. “He started collecting them at a young age. No matter what you wanted, he had it.”
Keefer’s wife, Carolyn, died in October 2013.
“They really were two halves of a whole,” said Haefner. “She knew a lot of history herself, and you could never imagine one of them without the other.”
The Keefers have two daughters, Katie Finnegan of Middle Grove and Mary Allen of Leesburg, Fla.
“He helped a lot of people with local history,” Finnegan said. “He shared everything. It’s too bad we couldn’t collect the stuff in his head.”
Finnegan said the family will hold a memorial service at the West Glenville Reformed Church on Aug. 2.
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