The village of Waterford has lost one of its quirkiest and most beloved voices. Joseph Waters Keating III, 80, a resident of Waterford for nearly 50 years, died Jan. 12.
Joe was a go-to source for village history and a fixture at the annual Waterford Fair, sitting on his front walk and delighting tourists and locals alike with his wry and witty tales of village life.
Joe was born March 20, 1937 in Montpelier, VT, the oldest son of Col. Joseph W. Keating Jr. and Esther Dixon Keating. Joe’s early years were spent moving around the globe for his father’s military career: he spent his preschool years in Oahu, Hawaii during World War II before heading to Frankfurt, Germany following the war. The family then lived in Arlington, VA and Fort Leavenworth, KS. In his early teens, Joe spent several memorable years in Heidelberg, Germany where he attended Heidelberg American High School and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Returning with his family to Fort Slocum, NY, Joe graduated from New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY.
Joe attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Virginia, where he majored in geology and was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity. He served in the U.S. Army’s map service at Fort Benning, GA and went on to a decades-long career with the federal government before retiring from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1984.
In 1969, Joe bought his historic home on Main Street in Waterford, part of a wave of preservation-minded newcomers transforming the historic Western Loudoun village in the 1960s. He renovated his 18th Century house himself– including installing the house’s first indoor plumbing. Joe became a part of fabric of Waterford during nearly five decades in the village–always a valued source of information on local history and a legendary Santa at the annual village Christmas party.
Joe was a founding member of the Loudoun County Preservation Society and a founding member of the George C. Marshall Home Preservation Fund (which later became the George C. Marshall International Center), a group formed in the 1990s to preserve the Leesburg home of George C. Marshall.
He was a dedicated yellow dog Democrat and a member of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee for more than 30 years. His weekly Waterford column for the Loudoun TImes-Mirror was a favorite with residents and non-residents alike, thanks to Joe’s charming and funny Garrison Keillor-esque accounts of goings-on in his one-of-a-kind hometown.
A history buff and antique firearms expert, he launched his Military Antiquaries business in the late 1960s in partnership with the late Corcoran Museum Director Bill Williams. He enjoyed black-powder target competitions with the Washington Blue Rifles and was a member of the North-South Skirmish Association. His expertise caught the attention of historical film producers who sought his advice on American military firearms, equipment, and dress. He was consulted on a number of films, notably a series of historical accounts of Civil War events for public television. Joe routinely involved his Waterford neighbors as extras in these films.
Joe was an avid homebrewer and enthusiastic supporter of Loudoun’s burgeoning craft brewing scene.
Joe will be much missed by his wife of 35 years JoEllen Day Keating of Waterford; sister Barbara Keating of Charlotte, NC; daughters Kristen Keating Pauchnik (Brian) of Pittsburgh, PA and Molly Keating Milefsky (Greg) of Richmond; son Joseph W. Keating IV of Shepherdstown, WV; step-daughters Janann Schroeder Mercker (Christian) of Lovettsville and Jessica Schroeder (Ron Edwards) of Washington, DC; and nine grandchildren who adored him. Joe and JoEllen’s daughter Nora Keating died in 2001, and Joe’s younger brother James Keating died in 2007.
A celebration of Joe’s life is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. at the Waterford Old School.