Born in Oregon in either 1913 or 1915, Edward Keith reportedly grew up in a poor family that faced hard times. 

Sometime during his youth, Keith, his mother Elsie, father Edwin and an older brother moved to San Francisco. According to Ed Keith, his father helped build the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Keith family lived in a one-bedroom home. Due to a lack of space, he and his brother shared a bed.

While the family could have used some assistance, his father refused “to receive the dole” or any kind of welfare or handouts, said his son-in-law Robert White. 

The family faced tragedy when his brother, age 12, died of appendicitis.

“The parents really never got over that,” said White. They eventually divorced.

At age 15, Ed Keith left home and moved into the YMCA in San Francisco. Working a variety of labor jobs, Keith joined the Army at the beginning of World War II.

The discrepancy of his birth date might be a result of Keith trying to increase his age to be able to join up, said White.

During the war, Keith was stationed in Saipan, in the South Pacific, for four years.

He married his first wife and became a father to his first child, Darlene. The couple eventually divorced.

After the war, Keith bought and sold real estate in the city. One of his early investments was a four-plex. Keith lived in one unit, his mother in another, and he rented out the other two.

He became a successful real estate buyer and seller. The motto of his real estate business? “List with Keith and start to pack.”

Keith later bought a large ranch in Chiles Valley. Called the Bar 49 Ranch, it was run as a summer camp.

A second marriage brought four more children to the family: Celeste, David, Richard and Lisa.

White said that Keith was not motivated by money. “He was not a big spender. He lived humbly.”

“He was a down to earth guy,” who enjoyed working and making deals, he said.

In fact, Keith continued to work full time until just weeks before his death in 2006.

His father-in-law was a huge believer in the power of positive thinking, said White. Because others mentored and helped him, Keith wanted to do the same.

“His passion was to give to children, youth,” or anybody in need.

Keith was buried at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, where he shares a grave marker with his mother. 

"EDWARD A. KEITH, 1913 - 2006," reads the marker.



Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.