Westmoreland County Courthouse fixture had politics ‘in his blood’

November 20, 2018

Earl S. Keim II was a fixture around the Westmoreland County Courthouse and in the Democratic Party for 32 years.

“He grew up around politics, so that was basically his whole life,” said longtime friend Mike Brajdich, chief county detective for the Westmoreland County District Attorney.

“Earl just had it in his blood -- as a little boy he’d be campaigning with his father,” said his wife, Gretchen.

Mr. Keim was first elected register of wills and clerk of the orphans’ court when he was 29. He took office in 1980 and served for eight terms, until 2012. The office handles filings for estates, inheritance tax collection for the state, guardianships, adoptions and marriage licenses.

During his time in public office, he also became known as an accomplished public speaker and a leader in the local Democratic Party.

“You could talk to anybody at the courthouse ... just about everybody there had known him. He had numerous friends at the courthouse,” said his wife.

Earl S. Keim II of Youngwood died Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, at home after a long battle with cancer. He was 68.

Born on Jan. 25, 1950, he was the son of the late Earl S. and Mary E. (Haun) Keim. He grew up in Youngwood and attended high school at Valley Forge Military Academy.

He spent his summers boating with his father off the coast of Brigantine, N.J., where he began a lifelong love of boating and sailing. At age 12, he earned enough money as a clammer to buy his first boat, Mrs. Keim said.

“His father bought a beach cottage there in 1958, so Earl was 8 years old when he started going to the ocean,” she said. “More than anything in his life, he loved the water.”

He kept a motor boat on the Monongahela River and a sail boat at Moraine State Park.

Mr. Keim also got interested in local politics as a child, while campaigning with his father, a former Common Pleas court judge.

He was elected to the office of register of wills at a time when the Democratic Party dominated Westmoreland County politics, Brajdich said.

“Earl certainly was a prominent figure in Westmoreland County and in this courthouse. He was a great campaigner and an excellent public speaker, and was heavily involved with the Democratic Party,” he said.

Mr. Keim served two terms as president of the state organizations for registers of wills and was sought out for his expertise on wills and estates.

“Attorneys loved him. A lot of people would call him with questions, even from other counties,” Mrs. Keim said.

Brajdich called Mr. Keim a “unique individual with a unique sense of humor. He made you smile and left you laughing. ... We all lost a very good friend.”

In his later years, Mr. Keim also enjoyed target shooting with a rifle.

He is survived by his wife, Gretchen L. (Detar) Keim; two children, Earl S. Keim III of Youngwood, and Heather C. Ross and her husband, Scott, of Youngwood; and two grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at C. Richard McCauley Funeral Home, 101 S. Fourth St., Youngwood. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Holy Cross Church, Youngwood.

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