Artimus Keiffer

October 15, 1952 – February 1, 2011
Artimus Keiffer in Baton Rouge.

Artimus Keiffer, Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Pioneer America Society: Association for the Preservation of Artifacts and Landscapes, died Tuesday morning, February 1, 2011, at his home in Stuart, Florida, after a courageous year-long battle with lung cancer. He was 58.

Artimus Keiffer, Ph.D., the Executive Director of the Pioneer America Society: Association for the Preservation of Artifacts and Landscapes, died Tuesday morning, February 1, 2011, at his home in Stuart, Florida, after a courageous year-long battle with lung cancer. He was 58.

Artimus was born October 15, 1952, in New York State, the only son of the late Arthur B. and Lucille K. Keiffer of Lancaster, Ohio. As Artimus’ father served for 22 years, first in the U.S. Army and later in the U.S. Air Force, Artimus grew up in numerous locations around the world. Following his father’s retirement from the military, Artimus spent the majority of his teen years in Lancaster, Ohio, where he was active in the Boy Scouts of America and achieved the distinguished rank of Eagle Scout.

After high school, Artimus enlisted in the military, serving briefly in Vietnam and later in Germany. Following his honorable discharge from the service, Artimus became a partner in “Rescreen,” a West Palm Beach-based company that repaired screens and sliding glass doors.

In 1981, at the age of 30, Artimus sold his share of “Rescreen” and enrolled in the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He received his B.S.J. degree in Journalism in 1985, and immediately applied to the master’s degree program in the Department of Geography at Ohio University. Long-time PAS: APAL member, Dr. Hubert G.H. Wilhelm, served as his advisor. Although he minored in meteorology, the focus of his master’s thesis was the material culture characteristic of various phases of road building. After completing his M.A. degree in 1987, Artimus drew upon his engaging personality and irrepressible wit to become the local weatherman for an Ohio television station. However, that particular career path was short-lived when Artimus decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Cultural Geography at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. At Kent State, he concentrated on architectural geography with an emphasis on architectural styles and their classifications. His dissertation fieldwork was conducted in Cuba. In 1994, at the age of 43, Artimus received his Ph.D. As he always liked to quip, “I was a late bloomer.”

In the academic world, Artimus found a true calling, and he inspired legions of students and colleagues with his infectious enthusiasm for teaching and his love for learning. By the end of his academic career, he had taught at Ohio University, Kent State University, University of Akron, Ohio Wesleyan, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Franklin College, Valparaiso University, and finally at Wittenberg University. He taught his students by getting them involved in the world around them, whether it was by actively running a winery or by participating in recycling programs. He led trips of students to study in Central America, Asia, and Cuba during his tenure as a professor. And, he always had a special interest in students, who like himself, entered the halls of higher learning as mature adults.

In his professional research, Artimus continued to focus on the built environment. As a follow-up to his thesis work, he prepared an inventory of cultural artifacts for that portion of U.S. Route 50 in southern Ohio, when it was converted into a multi-lane highway. Later, he teamed with Dr. Hubert Wilhelm to prepare a chapter in the PAS: APAL publication, A Guide to the National Road that focused on the segment of Old U.S. Route 40 from Columbus, Ohio to Wheeling, West Virginia. In his research dealing with architectural styles, Artimus emphasized the importance of technology as a major factor in changing residential house design. He formulated a typology for classifying house types based on technological variables. Later, he became interested in various forms of visual vernacular displays such as cemetery and yard art. In 2008, he completed the second, revised and updated, edition of The Geography of Ohio.

Artimus initially joined PAS: APAL in the late 1980s and attended his first meeting at St. Charles, Missouri, in 1989. During the1990s, he continued to attend the annual meetings, and then, during the final year of William D. Walters’ editorship of the Society’s journal, Material Culture, Artimus was named the journal’s Book Review Editor. In that position, he developed a new set of guidelines for book reviewers, and he aggressively built up an impressive inventory of book reviews. When Dr. Walters retired as the editor of Material Culture at the end of 2001, Artimus was chosen as his replacement. Artimus served as the editor of Material Culture from 2002 through 2007 and as co-editor in 2008. During his tenure as editor, Artimus completely redesigned the look of the journal, increased the size of the journal’s offerings, and added his own personal touch to each issue with his “View from the Owl Hole” introductions and his “Final Take” photographs.

In 2006, Artimus began serving as the Society’s Interim Executive Director after Charlie Calkins retired as Executive Director. His first act was to update and revise the Society’s By-Laws. In the process, he was responsible for changing both the Society’s objective and expanded its geographical focus. Originally, the objective had been to promote the study of “Pioneer America” in all of its varied aspects, where “Pioneer America” was defined as life in North America before the advent of the automobile age. Under Artimus, the objective became to promote the study of material culture in the Americas—North, Central, and South—in all of its varied aspects, including the advent of the automobile age. Consequently, under Artimus’ leadership the organization’s name was refashioned as the Pioneer America Society: Association for the Preservation of Artifacts & Landscapes, or PAS: APAL. In October 2008, the Board of Directors unanimously voted to remove “Interim” from the title, and Artimus served as the Society’s Executive Director for the remainder of his life.

Under Artimus’ leadership, women finally came to play a larger role in the Society. In late 2007, Artimus announced that Sara Beth Keough, of Saginaw Valley State University, would begin co-editing the journal, Material Culture, with him, and then would become the editor-in-chief the following year –Material Culture’s first female editor. With the retirement of longtime secretary-treasurer Frank Ainsley in 2008, Artimus saw an opportunity to separate the position into that of a secretary and that of a treasurer. After the Board of Directors approved the separation, Cathy Wilson, the departing editor of The PAS Newsletter, became the Society’s new secretary, and Paula Reed, the owner of Paula S. Reed & Associates, Inc. became the Society’s new treasurer. Artimus never regretted his choices. At his final PAS: APAL appearance at the 2009 Pipestem, West Virginia, Artimus had the pleasure of announcing at the Friday Evening Awards Banquet the first female recipient of the Henry H. Douglas Distinguished Service Award –Dawn S. Bowen of the University of Mary Washington.

Throughout his five years as the Society’s Executive Director, Artimus was continually attempting to identify new revenue streams and trying to control expenditures. In 2006, Artimus hosted the Springfield, Ohio Conference. This meeting was a success not only in terms of attendance, but it turned a profit. Previously, it had been sufficient for a conference host to break even on an annual meeting. Artimus, leading by example, demonstrated that by applying for small grants, by persuading local organizations to cover portions of the cost, and by proper pricing, the Society could establish a new revenue stream for itself every year. In the case of the Springfield, Ohio Conference, Artimus presented the secretary-treasurer with a check for more than $5,000.00, and every conference since his meeting has made a profit. In addition, Artimus and the treasurer, Paula Reed, initiated an annual end-of-the-year appeal for financial support in 2008. And, at the Board meeting in Pipestem, West Virginia, he began to lay his foundations for a formal PAS: APAL Fundraising Campaign. At the same time, Artimus established the privately funded Hubert G. H. Wilhelm Student Research Award in honor of his former mentor. Then, due to an operating deficit in 2008, Artimus proposed to the Board of Directors that the Society’s journal, P.A.S.T (Pioneer America Society Transactions), should be converted from a print-based journal to a web-based publication in order to reduce its production costs. In 2009, the first electronic version of P.A.S.T. was posted to the Society’s website.

However, in the midst of his efforts to reinvigorate the Society, Artimus faced his own personal crossroads. At the end of the 2007 school term at Wittenberg University, he retired from teaching and relocated to Stuart, Florida, where he built up a successful, new business, “The Door Doctor of Martin County.” At the same time, Artimus remained not only an independent scholar, but he still relished his duties as the Executive Director of the Society. And, when the initial host for the 2011 annual meeting withdrew his offer, Artimus volunteered to host the 2011 PAS: APAL Conference in Stuart, Florida. Even after he received his cancer diagnosis in the Spring of 2010, he refused to abandon his plans for a Stuart meeting. “This will be my gift,” he stubbornly insisted, “to the Society, for the friendships I’ve made, for the camaraderie I’ve enjoyed, and for all of the good times I’ve had over the years.”

Throughout his life, when he was not teaching, working, or volunteering, Artimus enjoyed traveling, making his own wine, puttering about in his antique Ford pick-up truck, judging wine competitions, collecting souvenir plates, and raising litters of Bichon Frise puppies, whom he fondly called his “little, white fluffy things.” Clint Snyder, his closest friend, probably summed up Artimus best when he wrote, “The world will be a far less interesting place without Artimus Keiffer. He brought light and humor to a room, just by walking into it. His zest for life was infectious, and his joy while helping others remains inspirational. He will be missed by the many, many people whose lives he touched.”

In June of 2010, Artimus married his wife, Christina, an L.P.N. In addition to his wife, he is survived by an uncle and aunt, David and Kathy Keiffer of Chicago, IL, his best friend, Clint W. Snyder, Ph.D., of Akron, Ohio, his former mentor, Hubert G. H. Wilhelm, Ph D., of Cincinnati, Ohio, numerous cousins, and his two Bichon Frise dogs, Dolly and Daisy.

Artimus’ final resting place will be at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth, Florida, where he will be interred with full military honors. The ceremony and a memorial dinner will be scheduled towards the end of March, the exact date to be announced later, to allow his many friends and family members to attend. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Treasure Coast Hospice in Stuart, Florida. The Pioneer America Society: Association for the Preservation of Artifacts & Landscapes suggests that its members make donations to a Memorial Fund that it is establishing in Artimus’ memory:

Artimus Keiffer Memorial Fund
c/o Paula S. Reed, Treasurer
P.O. Box 4644
Hagerstown, MD 21742
Direct questions to:


Memorial arrangements are under the supervision of the Martin Funeral Home & Crematory, Stuart, Florida.

Cathy A. Wilson
PAS: APAL Secretary
Direct comments to:



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