My Grandfather

Almost 42 years ago a baby boy was born to a young couple in Bowling Green, Kentucky. That boy was named after his grandfather, a simple man who worked hard, loved his family, and knew what it meant to be faithful. Today, that baby has grown into a man who longs to tell you why his grandfather matters.

Raymond Neal Keown passed away recently. His death was not welcomed by any means, but it was a relief to those who had watched him suffer. My grandfather’s health had been steadily declining over the last few months. After several falls and a couple of head injuries, the toll had taken its effect and his body just couldn’t sustain life anymore. Like everyone who’s ever lived, his time came to an end. He was surrounded by family and loved to the very end. He is still loved today and will be missed immensely. His place can’t be taken and his loss will leave a hole in the lives of everyone who knew him.

For those of you who didn’t know him, I’d like to take a minute to tell you about my grandfather. He was a man of faith and few words. A man I respected, loved, and hope to honor with these words. He left me an inheritance I can’t quite quantify. It wasn’t a pile of gold or silver, it was an inheritance of faith.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.

Proverbs 13:22

He was faithful to his family. For those of us fortunate enough to be his, that was always known. He didn’t have to say “I love you” to see it in his actions. All of his grandchildren can remember fondly sitting in his lap, staying at his house, playing in his yard, and sitting at his table. We never went without, he made sure of that. He was constantly a part of our lives from the ball field to the graduation ceremony.

He was faithful to his country. While I don’t know many of the details, the stories he chose to tell of his service in Europe during the Korean War were memorable. I’ll never forget how he described the first night in Germany as a “cold he had never felt before.” Just a few years ago, the city of Bowling Green honored him and my uncles for their service. It was nice to know more than a few noticed his service.

He was faithful to his job. My grandfather spent the majority of his life working for the railroad. First, the L & N and then CSX. I remember his loyalty to them, going out to fix crossings on holidays, and the honor they bestowed upon him at his retirement. He was a man who knew what to do and how to do it. In his later life, he picked up an odd job here and there. One of them was for a local company. The owner of that company came to the funeral and told all of us that our grandfather was the best man he ever knew.

Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Finally, he was faithful to God. While I never saw him stand up and lead a song or a prayer or even preach a sermon, I still know his faith was secure. Until he was sick, he didn’t miss services. He came as often as he could. In fact, as a child, when you stayed at his house you knew Sunday morning was a day to rise early. Services would begin at 9:30 am, but we’d never arrive later than 9. Part of me knows he wanted that seat, but part of me realizes it was about getting there to save the seat for those he loved. He knew they’d be there, he knew it was important to be there as well. He knew rising to go to the house of the Lord was important because he was faithful.

Raymond Neal Keown was a great man. No one will write books about him, no one will dedicate a building to him, and most of the world will ignore or overlook his passing, but those who love him know why the world has lost a giant. They know how important he was and will continue to be. At his funeral, I read two verses that seemed to be the most appropriate. One was mentioned earlier, the other is here. I pray that when the time comes for me to be remembered, my grandson (or granddaughter) will believe it’s fitting as well.

Grandchildren are the crown of old men. And the glory of sons is their fathers.

Proverbs 17:6

He was my grandfather, the strongest man I ever knew, and I am his namesake. I pray that one day my life will say the same things his did. I pray I’ll be remembered for being a faithful man. I pray my children and grandchildren will rise up and thank the world for me.

  • – Raymond Neal Mathis


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, (c) The Lockman Foundation.