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Arbor is a tribute to a community servant
Ceremony honors late Ray Keith, former Gainesville city manager and war hero
Ray Keith

A former city manager and Air Force major will be honored Tuesday evening at Gardens on Green as friends gather for a memorial ceremony.

Bobbett Holloway has organized the ceremony for her father, the late Ray Keith, who served as Gainesville’s city manager from 1970-88.

Keith was a B-24 bomber pilot during World War II and a prisoner of war in Germany. He received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross among other awards.

But he wouldn’t want you to know about it.

“A lot of the men that came back from the war believed that the men that died were the heroes, and they didn’t want to take a chance of taking any glory,” Holloway said. “To be perfectly truthful, my father would probably be a little disturbed that I’m building this memorial for him. He was a very, very humble man, and did not really want attention drawn to him.”

Nevertheless, he’ll have his day Tuesday when his friends and colleagues gather at the Hall County School Board Office on Green Street in Gainesville to see a metal arbor complete with a bronze plaque commemorating Keith’s achievements serving both his city and his country. The arbor also is decorated with rosebuds, butterflies and bluebirds, one for each member of the Keith family.

“My mother and dad loved bluebirds,” Holloway said. “And it was my brother, Bob, and I, so it’s two baby birds and a mama and daddy bird.”

The location of the arbor is fitting, as Keith was an avid gardener for many years. His garden, which now belongs to Holloway, boasts about 150 rose bushes among other blooming flora.

The arbor was crafted by Monarch Metal Works and funded through donations. It was installed Saturday morning.

Tuesday also will be deemed “Ray Keith Day,” and the dedication will take place at 5:15 p.m.

Former colleague Henry Pinyan, who served as Gainesville’s city clerk, said he enjoyed working with Keith.

“He was an honorable man,” Pinyan said. “He served his country well — not only the country, but the city of Gainesville.”

Holloway had a similar opinion.

“He was just a likable, quiet, strong, principled man — a total servant,” she said. “He served his country, then he served his city, then he served his county and he served his family.”