Virginia (Jennie Mae) Keele, 92, passed away on December 18, 2016, at Meadowlark Hills, in Manhattan, Kansas. She was born on February 2, 1924 in Manhattan and was adopted and raised by her grandparents, Randall and Amelia Keele. Virginia attended Manhattan High School. She was married to Pat Washington, but they later divorced. Virginia was preceded in death by her parents and Grandparents. She is survived by her sister, Betty Harris, of Columbia, South Carolina, as well as many nephews, nieces and cousins.
She lived in Washington State for a while and found work in the shipyards. There her work even required that she go underwater for a while to accomplish certain tasks.
Virginia returned to Manhattan and worked for many years at Scheus café and bus terminal. Her career as a cook began one day when the regular cook did not come in to work and the manager told her to cook the food that day. She was overwhelmed with no experience as a restaurant cook, but she got the job done. Virginia taught herself and became well-known for her ability to prepare quality food. Later, Virginia became a cook for the Sigma Chi fraternity here in Manhattan. As she got more mature, she was known by many young men for her excellent cooking and her good advice. Her picture and profile can be found in the book 140 Years of Soul – A History of African-Americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865 – 2005.
Virginia would tell how she, in her younger years, led what she called a “wild life.” Still, her "Papa" had been a preacher and she always had an interest in the Bible. She would laugh and tell of how, when Jehovah’s Witnesses called at her home, she would hide and not answer the door. Yet, in the 1950’s, she started a serious study of the Bible with the Witnesses. Virginia was impressed on the way she was welcomed at their meetings, even though she was the only black person attending.
Virginia was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses on November 1, 1958. She became well-known for her principles. At one point, she threatened to quit work because of the profanity of her fellow workers. The manager, instead, made sure that no more profanity was used in her presence!
For many years, she served as a full-time minister, speaking to the public about the Bible and helping many people make changes and lead better lives. Her Bible teaching was sincere and bold though she would laugh and admit that, sometimes, she was not so tactful. Her love for Jehovah God and her zeal in helping others to know God’s love is a legacy that will long be remembered.
Memorial services will be held at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, 100 Butterfield, Manhattan, Ks on Saturday, December 24, 2016, at 1:30 p.m. Private family inurnment will be in the Sunset Cemetery in Manhattan, KS, at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, Donations can be made to Jehovah's Witnesses. Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, Kansas 66502.