By Dave Ongie, News Editor
The memories came rushing back as the four daughters of Billy Joe and Jean Keefauver gathered on the porch of the old brick house they called home during their childhood years. They were gathered along with their husbands, other family members and city officials for the unveiling of a new state historical marker in front of the Keebler-Keefauver Home last Friday afternoon.
“We can see what has happened in this house over all these years,” said Johnson City mayor Jenny Brock prior to the unveiling of the marker. “It only took us 10 years to get the marker that we pledged to your mother and father, but it’s a great day to be able to unveil that here today.”
The house was built by Joseph Keebler in the late 1850s before the Keefauver family purchased the land in 1950. Billy Joe and Jean Keefauver moved into the home and ran the dairy farm starting in 1964. They gave birth to four daughters – Teresa Carson, Cindy Mayes, Rebecca Alexander and Beth Fox – who helped develop the registered Holstein herd by showing prize-winning cattle throughout the region.
After Billy Joe passed, his daughters began broaching the subject of selling the property with their mother.
“Mom kept saying ‘When the time is right, the Lord will send someone,’ ” Carson recalled.
Alexander laughed as she remembered her mother’s response when she suggested her mother should take a more proactive approach to selling the property.
“I remember saying, ‘Mom, you need to put a sign in the yard if you’re going to sell it,’ ” Alexander recalled. “And she said, ‘No, the neighbors will think we need money if we put a sign in the yard.’ ”
As it happened, Jean Keefauver’s approach worked just fine as Johnson City eventually approached the family about buying the property for future use as parkland.
“When the city approached us about buying the farm, she said, ‘This is it. This is what God wants,” Carson recalled her mother saying. “She knew and dad knew that this would be able to be used as a thing of beauty for this community.”
How the farm is ultimately going to be used remains to be seen, but Brock said there are several exciting possibilities being considered.