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Lloyd S. Keafer Jr., 88, scientist who worked on Viking spacecrafts and studied hurricanes

Lloyd S. Keafer Jr.
Lloyd S. Keafer Jr.

Lloyd S. Keafer Jr., 88, passed away on Friday, February 26, 2016, ‘in harmony with God in his infinite universe.’

He was born in Somerset County, Pa., in the family farmhouse and experienced his childhood on his parents’ dairy farm with his two brothers and two sisters in western Pennsylvania. He graduated from Conemaugh Township High School in Davidsville, Pa., in 1945 and immediately enlisted in the U.S. Navy before the end of World War II.

Upon Navy discharge after the war, he enrolled at Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa., where he earned a B.S. in physics in 1949 and met his lifelong soulmate, Elaine (Seese), whom he married two years later, and together, they recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

Lloyd viewed himself both as a teacher and as a scientist while mentoring many over four decades of service. After starting as a science and math teacher in Pennsylvania schools, Lloyd began a career in government service; first, teaching electronics and radar systems to U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force recruits during the Korean War. After the war, he began work at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, later renamed NASA) at Langley Research Center in Hampton. He continued to work at NASA LARC for the next 30 years as an aerospace research scientist during the ‘NASA glory years.’

His early years were spent partly in the Instrument Research Division (IRD). He was particularly proud to have helped frame the scientific experiments (meteorology, seismology, inorganic chemistry) on the two Viking spacecrafts that landed successfully on planet Mars in 1976. As that mission ended, he served with NASA’s Environmental Quality Program Office. While at NASA, he enjoyed playing flag football and bowling with his colleagues. After his NASA retirement, he continued his aerospace career at Bionetics and CTA Space Systems, which included evaluation and recommendation of numerous microgravity experiments destined for the NASA Space Shuttle.

Lloyd and Elaine moved to Marlbank Farms in York County with their young family, where they resided for over 53 years. He is survived by Elaine; their children, Joy, Bruce (Anne), Wayne and Dale (Michelle); and their grand and great-grandchildren.

Always a family man that encouraged learning, in 1967, he placed his wife and four children in a VW bus to discover the many wonders of this country. During 1969 to 1970, the family welcomed Norma G. Sancho, an AFS exchange student from Costa Rica into their home. Lloyd’s hobbies included both round and square dancing with Elaine, and they were co-presidents of Merry Mixers and organizers of the annual New Year’s Eve dances for over 25 years. Lloyd and Elaine also enjoyed playing mixed-doubles tennis in their middle years, and Lloyd continued as an avid tennis player until he was 85 years old. He also swam 64 laps (one mile) every year on his birthday at the Marlbank swimming pool. He loved to write poetry and also short stories as evidenced by his works in his booklet ‘A Memory Tour of the Keafer Farm.’

Church and community service were always a part of Lloyd’s life. He completed coursework for ordination as a minister in the Church of the Brethren and served the Ivy Farms church as a respected moderator and scholarly teacher for many years. His leadership was appreciated in many disaster-response events, often following hurricanes in the VA/NC Tidewater region, particularly in Poquoson and Franklin.

A memorial service officiated by Pastor Ken Peterson will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 12, at Ivy Farms Church of the Brethren, 681 Dresden Drive, Newport News, VA 23601, followed by a luncheon served by the church in the fellowship hall. Family and friends will gather at 3 p.m. for interment in Peninsula Memorial Park, 12750 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606, with no procession from the church.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Heifer International P.O. Box 8058 Little Rock, AR 72203-8058,, which is dedicated to working with communities to end world hunger and poverty. Contributions may also be made to Ivy Farms Church of the Brethren.

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