The sledge hammer dropped again, Tuesday, with the shocking news that Keith Oakford passed unexpectedly, while on the job site. Still reeling up here on the Bell from the recent deaths of both Ken and Celia, and Sparky, Keith’s passing is another keen blow, reminding us of the fragility of life.
“Perrrrrrrrrfect,” was his trade mark statement, and from my vantage point, being struck down while doing what he loved so much, was just the perfect way to bow out.
Keith could do everything that had anything to do with construction, including the electrical, plumbing and all things related to building. He knew solar, twelve volt and he knew how to make the term “off the grid” immaterial. So much of his handiwork is a prominent part of my system, I will miss him terribly.
When we worked together on the Maguire job, a few years back, my last go at a full-scale project, Keith astonished me by scrambling around on that rooftop like a monkey, he was that limber. I was up on that roof too, but only on my backside, straddling the upper-story wall while installing two-x-ten, twenty-foot-long rafters.
That there’s some gnarly work.
Already in his 70’s, Keith’s mobility was that of a twenty-year-old. His crusty exterior carefully masked a heart of pure gold, but his sense of humor shined forth always, keeping the work-site upbeat. I strive for perfection, always, but am willing to settle for what I get; Keith strived for perfection and got it.
I first met him back in the early eighties, when he would regale us with stories from his houseboat days, down in Marin County, with some of the old crew: Rex, Tom Tillinghast and the Friel Brothers.
The Friels came up one summer, long about ’78 or so, and put out 300 pots of soil with freshly planted cannabis plants, all growing just fine with the spring rains, and left. When they returned in September to pluck the vast numbers of Benjamins off the plants, they found them long dried out and brown, not much taller than when they had departed.
We got a lot of mileage out of that one for a lot of years.
Keith had a lot of stories, but he was no bullshitter. He was straightforward, warm-hearted and talented as fuck. And he made us all laugh. It’s hard to believe that I can no longer schedule him in to deal with the most challenging of the logistical snafus which arise so frequently, when you live off the grid.
I loved him like a brother and will miss him terribly. Good-bye Unc Keith-Be sure and pack a pipe wrench with you when you head out-there’s bound to be a leaky faucet wherever you end up.