Obituary of Joseph P. Keene
Joseph Pryor Keene affectionately known as "Joe" was born the third of four children to Geneva and Darius Keene, Sr. in Philadelphia, PA on April 30, 1928. He was a visionary who worked intently to live out his favorite quote, "To thine own self be true." Joe's 'truth' was to serve with excellence, integrity and equity in spite of the legalized racial tensions and disparities of his time. He was raised a devout Episcopalian and served as an acolyte at St. Augustine's Church, Philadelphia. He received his early education in the Philadelphia School System, graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 1946 then attended Hampton Institute in Virginia. While at Hampton, he was in ROTC, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and met his Kappa Sweetheart, Jacqueline Pyatt. He graduated as a Distinguished Military Honors Student and received his US Army commission to enter as Second Lieutenant in the School of Finance at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, where he was the only African American in his class. While stationed at Camp Kilmer in New Brunswick, NJ, he served as a Finance Officer. He was soon promoted to First Lieutenant and ended his military career as a Captain. Joe & Jackie united in marriage, a love that bloomed for 65 years. They are the parents of Terri Keene Benson and Kimberly Keene Holmes (Roswell). They have four grandchildren, Nikki Benson-Watlington, Keith Benson, Ed.D. (Jeanette), Alexis Holmes and Lauren Holmes; and three great-grandchildren, Nadine Melendez-Benson, Gabrielle Watlington and George Watlington, III. Joe had a remarkable sense of compassion. Although he wanted to become an Episcopal Priest, God had other plans for him. His direction was shifted when he entered the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture & City Planning in 1958. He evolved into a dedicated advocate for the rights and welfare of others. He volunteered as a Liaison on the Camden Housing Authority for the State of NJ, and later became the first black Chairman in its history. Joe worked hard to implement many changes to improve the inequitable conditions that existed. As you can imagine, as a black man in the early 1970's, it took extreme courage and a unique strength to stand and speak 'truth to power.' There's a quote that reads "Standing up for right often comes with consequences." Joe certainly paid his dues, but always pressed forward. He was an outstanding man, as an Army officer, scholar, urban planner, civic leader and mentor. Whenever he saw an injustice he passionately reacted. Joe's mantra was "All I wanted to do is to help people." Joe was a founding member of Burlington-Camden County Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., founding member of the Camden City Chapter of CORE, a nominated member of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, a member of the NAACP and much more. He was a active member to any congregation or organization he joined. Joe goes on to join his mother and father, Geneva and Darius Keene, Sr, and brother and sister, Darius Keene, Jr (Joan) and Geneva Lewis (John). He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, his sweet baby sister, Martha Jarrett (John, deceased), sisters-in-law, Doris Johnson & Adrienne Spencer and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. We know how much he loved to talk, share ideas and enjoyed all kind of music. We can only imagine he's in heaven doing all of these things and is thankful he has an eternity to do so. He will forever be respected, admired, loved and missed. In lieu of flowers, the family request donations to Jacobs Chapel AME Church, 318 Elbo Lane, Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054. Jacobschapelame.org.
Period of Meditation/Services
Friday, May 15, 2020
Covington Funeral Home
Atco, New Jersey, United States