Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

History of Ford Keating

Written March 2011

Creede_sm.jpg I was raised in Sardis, MS, a very small town with a small school. I graduated in the same building as my father, and we both felt fortunate that I was accepted at the USAF Academy. A moment here is needed to explain the name change. At the Academy I was known as Bob, but in pilot training there were five Bob's in our class, and a young lady I dated thought five was too many. She began using my middle name, Ford, and introduced me to her neighbor as Ford, and I eventually married the neighbor. So Ford stuck. The picture to the right was taken at Creede, CO, near the gravesite of one Bob Ford. Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated!

Back to the Academy. I was again fortunate to be assigned to the Tough Twenty Troll Squadron, full of smart and helpful friends. It is still a great pleasure to reunion with the Old Trolls and with all the guys (no gals back then) of '64. Academics were an issue, but I managed to pull myself together and graduate solidly in the bottom half of the class.

Other things occupied more of my interest. Things like intramural athletics, reading anything non-academic, playing loooong Gin Rummy games, playing baseball with a plastic golf ball and a slide rule cover as a bat and using the overhead bins to determine hits. I belonged to the Baptist Student Union which allowed us to go on a religious retreat once a year. Girls were there. Five of us bought a car to share before we could “legally” own a car. It was the source of many adventures.

196207315_KeatingLennonLevins_med.jpg Being away from the Academy made being at the Academy bearable. We went on field trips to exotic places like London, Paris, Brussels and Madrid. Here is a picture of me and long-time friends Ray Lennon and Bob Levins during an overseas field trip back in 1962. I have known Ray and Bob for over 50 years. Four years at USAFA could have been a miserable experience, but the classmates made it one of my best. Thanks.

Pilot training was at Craig AFB, Selma, AL. T-37 and T-33 – my only single engine time. I met and married Susan White there, and we went through RF-4C school at Shaw AFB, SC. Then it was on to Europe at Toul Rosieres AB, France. After DeGaulle kicked us out, we went to Mt. Home AFB, ID where our daughter Heather was born and I moved up to the front seat. Not unexpectedly, that led to an overseas assignment to fly in the Vietnam War at Udorn AB, Thailand. I have over 20,000 flying hours, and those combat hours were the best and most memorable of my flying career. There is something edgy about being shot at. Susan and Heather lived in Montgomery, AL during that tour, and we all moved to Kadena AB, Okinawa for our next tour. Our daughter Candace was born in Okinawa. The tour there was great, but Susan became ill and died which changed everything.

Heather, Candace, and I moved to Bergstrom AFB, Austin, TX for our final tour in the Air Force. During our graduation ceremony at USAFA, a young lady named Martha McClintock Galloway and her new husband were honeymooning in Colorado Springs and heard our graduation while driving in the mountains. Graham Galloway was in our ‘64 pilot training class at Webb AFB, TX, so Martha met a lot of our classmates there and at Perrin AFB, TX for F-102 school. Unfortunately Graham was killed while flying for the TX ANG, leaving Martha with three boys, Andy, Peter, and Brian. Martha and I met in Austin, fell in love, married and started the greatest adventure of my life. A widow and a widower with five children. What were we thinking?

FordMartha_edited_med.jpg We separated from the Air Force in 1972 and moved to Chicago to be in the banking business. I came home from work one snowy frigid day and was informed that the rest of the family was moving south. “Do you want to go?” That conversation led to a job flying for Delta Air Lines for the next 30 years.

There are many stories about the commercial flying life, the weekly trips away from home, and the ease of wide ranging travel with the family. In 1976 we added our own child, Timothy, to the family. We lived in Atlanta, Denton, and Austin. I flew B-727, DC-8, DC-9, L-1011, MD-80, MD-90, B-757, B-767, and the best airplane I ever flew, the B-767-400. I retired in 2002 at age 60.

But there were significant events during those years that cloud happiness. Peter was ill from birth, never lived with us, and died at age 6. My father was murdered at his store in MS during a robbery. Martha had breast cancer and has survived that for 21 years and counting. The most significant event was Brian's death in a motorcycle accident at age 25. He was born after Graham's death, and I adopted him and Andy at ages one and five. He was my son in every way, and I miss him. Even though there is much to be angry about, I thank God for every day and year we have together.

Every one else is healthy and doing well. Heather and Griffin live here in Austin. Tim lives here and plans to marry Natalie soon. Candace and Michael live here with their children Kelsey, Colin, Mitchell, Vivian, and Molly. Andy and Tammi live in Oakland with their children Clare and Grant. Martha and I enjoy our church and friends here.

Martha has many friends who share her love of art, and she is an accomplished artist. We do some volunteer work, play golf, attend UT football games with friends, and travel (See the picture at the right of Martha and me in happy times on Doubtful Sound, New Zealand). We do notice some slowing as we age. Still, we are making plans to celebrate our 40th anniversary and see what the mystery of the future holds.
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