NO. 17429 • 5 November 1926 – 7 April 2008
Died in Ponca City, OK
It was August 1945, and a young Keith Wilson Loucks found himself discharged from the Army and 1,800 miles from home. He had received some severance pay from the Army, but Keith made a decision that characterized his approach toward life. Instead of taking the train or bus, he decided to hitchhike all the way from Lowry Field near Colorado Springs, CO to Danbury, CT.
Keith was born on 5 Nov 1926 in Canton, NY, to Howard and Maude Wilson Loucks. His education began in a one-room school house with students from first through eighth grade. He started high school at Canton High School, Canton, NY, and graduated from Danbury High School, Danbury, CT, in 1943 at the age of 16. He then attended the State Trade School in Putnam, CT, learning aircraft mechanics. In 1944, Keith enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve and in 1944–45 attended Massachusetts State College in an Army Special Program for training as an air crew member. He later completed basic training at Sheppard Field in Wichita Falls, TX. When the war in Europe ended, the air crew program ceased. Keith traveled to Lowry Field in Denver to learn remote control turret mechanics for B-29s, but after V-J Day, Keith was discharged from the Army Air Corps and stranded in Denver. He then embarked on his cross-country trek to Connecticut.
In 1946, Keith was appointed to West Point by Senator Thomas C. Hart of Connecticut and graduated 83rd in a class of 670 in 1950. Keith was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, assigned to the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, and stationed in Germany as a platoon leader. During 1951–53, Keith served in the 1402nd Engineer Combat Battalion (Seventh Army). While stationed in Germany, Keith met and fell in love with a local girl, Ruth Werr, and they married in Darmstadt, Germany in 1953. They remained married for the next 55 years. Later in 1953, they moved to Ft. Belvoir, VA, where Keith was assigned to the Engineering School to teach NATO officers Mine Warfare. As part of this assignment, he made a training film. Two sons were born during this time, Mark Vernon in November 1953 and Michael Kirk in March 1955.
In March 1955 he also resigned his commission at the rank of captain and began employment with Continental Oil Co (Conoco). Conoco assigned Keith to the Sahara Petroleum Company in Egypt as a Mine Clearance Supervisor, and he flew on ahead, while his wife followed later with their children. The family settled into a villa in Alexandria, Egypt. When Keith wasn’t clearing mines in the Sahara desert, he developed a keen interest in seeking oil and the theory behind seismic reflection. He learned geophysics on the job. In 1956, when the French and British captured the Suez Canal, Keith and his family were evacuated to Italy and Switzerland. While en route, the photogenic couple with the cute toddlers was greeted by Claire Booth Luce, then U.S. Ambassador to Italy, while on board the evacuation ship (a luxury liner).
Subsequently, he became a Doodlebugger for Conoco seismic crews in the western U.S. and then an Acquisitions Geophysicist exploring for oil in more than 50 countries. He and Ruth traveled far and wide, living overseas in Libya and Chad and domestically in New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah. While in Gunnison, UT in 1960, the couple had another child, a daughter they named Virginia Lea. The travel weary family lived in Ponca City, OK (a headquarters for Conoco) on five separate occasions.
Keith traveled all over the world and had been to every continent except Antarctica by the time he retired in December 1986 after 32 years. He had spent eight years on the African continent alone during his career with Conoco.
In October 1980, he had an exciting business trip to China to the southwest corner of the Tarim Basin in far western Sinkian Province. On his return, he regaled family and friends with interesting stories and slides of the trip. When not traveling, he was an avid bowler, sometimes bowling in several leagues at once. Keith won many trophies over the years, excelling in bowling as he excelled at everything else he loved to do. He was a long time member of the Seisjets bowling team.
When he finally retired, Keith spent his time bowling, gardening, and taking care of horses and pets. Keith and Ruth’s seven grandchildren were frequent visitors, most coming for several weeks each summer. The couple kept them busy with tennis, horses, swimming and other activities at “Camp Loucks.” All the grandchildren were thrilled and excited to visit Oklahoma, and many have Oklahoma friends they still keep in touch with.
Keith also was very supportive of his wife’s art career, serving as her art show pit crew. At the height of this activity, they went to 14 art shows a year in Oklahoma and surrounding states. Keith framed Ruth’s oils and water colors, loaded the van and helped set up and take down their booth at each show. As with everything else, Keith worked out a very precise and detailed loading plan to accommodate all of the booth equipment and paintings in their van.
The couple made many friends in the art and craft community during their art show years, many of them also retirees. Over the years, they sold a lot of paintings.
Keith’s frames and Ruth’s paintings appear in collections all over the United States and in a few foreign countries.
During these years the couple also made frequent visits to their children’s homes in New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas and Australia. Keith leaves behind a family legacy of love for travel, foreign cultures, math, and the sciences as well as the traits of loyalty, determination, affection and sacrifice for family and country.