Pearl Harbor tribute in Concord, it appears, will continue

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  • Stephen Keith walks in front of two of the World War II military vehicles at his Pembroke home on Monday. Keith displays them in front of the State House on Pearl Harbor Day every year with his wife, Jeanne. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith and his wife, Jeanne, with their World War II military Ford Jeep at their Pembroke home on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Stephen Keith walks in front of two of the World War II military vehicles at Pembroke home on Monday, November 16, 2020. Keith has displayed them in front of the State House on Pearl Harbor Day every year with his wife, Jeanne. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jeanne and Stephen Keith stand in front of the World War II-era military transport at City Plaza in honor of Pearl Harbor and all World War II veterans in 2014. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor file

  • Stephen Keith drives his World War II military Ford Jeep at Pembroke home on Monday, November 16, 2020. Keith has displayed them in front of the State House on Pearl Harbor Day every year with his wife, Jeanne. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Stephen and Jeanne Keith in front of the Army Jeep they took to the State House in 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor file

  • Stephen and Jeanne Keith prepare their Jeep to put it into the GMC transport for the trip to the State House in 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor file

  • Stephen and Jeanne Keith of Pembroke talk with passers-by who stopped to look at their World War II-era vehicles at City Plaza in downtown Concord on Dec. 7, 2017. Monitor file

Monitor columnist
Published: 11/16/2020 3:44:43 PM

The email from Pembroke’s Stephen Keith expressed concern that his annual tribute to those killed at Pearl Harbor was in jeopardy.

The city of Concord, Keith’s message said, had charged him $125 for the right to display his two original World War II-era vehicles at the State House next month, a fee which was too steep. Suddenly, Keith said, he’d been labeled a for-profit organization, no longer entitled to the typical $15 nonprofit fee he had grown accustomed to. He had paid the lower fee since 2009, he said. He wrote that the city wanted previously unknown insurance costs.

He worried that his personal tribute to Dec. 7, 1941, the date of infamy, would be spoiled because of a few bucks or a misunderstanding.

Thankfully, no. Mayor Jim Bouley explained there was a mix up somewhere in the pipeline. He said the door remained open for Keith and his motorized artifacts. Pay the $15, like always.

“I told him he can team up with any nonprofit and get the reduced fee,” Bouley said by phone. No fees or requirements have changed, he added. 

Keith was relieved, but still a little unsure of what happened.

“Okay, well, I’ll get back to them,” he said Monday after he was told of Bouley’s comments. “They looked up the previous applications when I was there and it showed I paid like $15 or $20, so I don’t know what happened after that.”

The beauty here is the bottom line. The exhibit, it appears, will go on. An important exhibit. Created by the husband and wife team of Stephen and Jeanne Keith.

They’ll show Jeanne’s 1942 Ford Army Jeep and Stephen’s 10-wheel 1943 GMC Army troop carrier, on the sidewalk, near the State House arch and the Christmas tree.

The truck has three stick shifts on the floor and a .50-caliber machine gun on top. Its bullets, six inches long, are strung together in their barn, which is rich in World War II items.

This is a couple that reads and learns and respects anything having to do with World War II. Jeanne’s father was an assistant cameraman for something called STAGE 5, which made training films during the war for B-29 pilots. Her grandma Hazel was a volunteer for the Red Cross.

Stephen is a walking encyclopedia of battles and names. He’s purchased World II-era vehicles simply by driving around the state and looking for them. He bought the truck from the Deerfield Fire Department 40 years ago for $525.

They began showing these olive-green pieces of history in 2009. They’ve labeled it a Pearl Harbor reenactment that includes the clothing, the vehicles and the spirit of the day. Jeanne has dressed like a nurse, Stephen like a soldier.

They missed last year due to a personal matter. They thought they might have to cancel this year as well, caused by a clerical snafu.

Cancel their annual remembrance, a colossal and necessary snapshot of our history, a snapshot reminding us that more than 2,400 American sailors died on the date of infamy?

Unthinkable, really. 

“We would gladly work with him,” Bouley said. “On a more positive note, maybe there was a communication issue.”

Seems that way. 

“I’ll go down there,” Keith said. “Try to follow the same routine.”




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