Joseph “JR” Keating, an unwaveringly loyal husband, loving father, and a man of God, and of laughter and joy, was called to his place with his wife and the Lord on Jan. 12, 2019. His life was well-lived. He was 87.
Joe was born in Langdon, North Dakota, on June 16, 1931. He was the second child of Del and Olive (Bear) Keating. He was born in the family apartment at the Bear Hotel the family ran. He spent his early years at the hotel finding excitement meeting hotel guests in the lobby and bar and exploring the ice house, boiler room and fire escape.
In 1936, he moved with the family to Glasgow, where business was booming after construction of the Fort Peck Dam. Joe attended Glasgow public schools for 10 years before moving by train to Billings, which would be his home for the rest of his life.
He attended Billings Central Catholic High School, where he was a running back for the school’s first 11-man football team and dated the head cheerleader. He graduated in 1949. Later, with help from what he always called “saintly” benefactors, he attended the University of Portland. He graduated with a business degree in 1954 and was immediately hired as one of the now renowned Montana Oil Scouts for Sohio Petroleum. That same year, on July 24th, he married the high school head cheerleader and love of his life, Betty Hayes, and they spent the next 60 years together.
Joe and Betty were married in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Billings and over the years became charter members of the Holy Rosary, St. Pius X and St. Thomas the Apostle parishes. While still working as an oil scout, Joe was hired in 1957 to work for Farmer’s Union — which later became CENEX — as a petroleum landman. Joe stayed with CENEX for 38 years, working his way up to vice president of exploration and production before retiring in 1995.
Except for two years in Lewistown, Joe and Betty lived their married life in Billings, raising a family of five children. As a couple, they were active in the church and community. Joe was quick with a smile, a joke and to tell his family he loved them. He noticed life around him. He instinctively helped those in need, not just with money but with deeds. Caring about others was built into his soul, as was humbleness.
He found solace in his daily devotional and Bible, and was on his knees every day to say prayers. He also found peace on the road with his wife — in retirement taking road trips from coast-to-coast and border-to-border. When not exploring the country, his hands were holding a hammer or trowel, doing home improvement projects for friends or family or at his second home, the family-owned Winner’s Circle Sports Bar and Casino. A statue of his high school football pose — which he of course helped install — graces the front of the Winner’s Circle. And everyone in the place literally knows his name. He cherished his kids and grandkids. A childlike attitude and smile always graced his face with the kids around as he sang them songs or had them on his knee speaking with love to them.
Survivors include three daughters, Karen Keating, Karla and Ed Ulledalen, Kristie and Dan Horgan, all of Billings; two sons, Tim J. and Peggy Keating, Billings, and Kevin Keating, San Diego. His numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren include Kristie Lynn, Katria, Alex, Tyler, Tanna, Travis, Taylor, Ben and Bryan. Other survivors include his brothers, Tom Keating, Pat and Janet Keating, Terry and Janet Keating, Mike and Jean Keating; and sister Kathy and Mike Wyrwas.
He was preceded in death by his lifelong partner and wife, Betty Keating and his two brothers, Jerry and Tim Keating. For all the love, wisdom and a life lived as an example, we will be eternally grateful, Dad. We know you are at peace with our Savior and with your angel — our mother — continuing to touch our lives and hearts.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 18, at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, 226 Wicks Lane. Burial service will immediately follow at Calvary Cemetery. In remembrance, donations can be made to St. Vincent DePaul or a charity of your choice.