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Keith Allen dies; was soldier, tinkerer, and all-around nice guy

By David Miller
Journal Staff Writer

Keith Allen's life was full of tireless volunteerism, yet as a toymaker and Scout leader, he made a lot of it seem as fun as child's play.

Allen, who spent his retirement as a toymaker at Crossroads Village died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at McClaren Hospital. He was 83.

"He was raised in a small town," said Allen's middle son, John. "He was taught to give back to the community. You don't have to be C.S. Mott to contribute something worthwhile."

Born in Highland Park on June 20, 1915 and his family soon moved to Carsonville, a small town in the Thumb area. He moved to Flint in 1935.

He was married to his wife, Julia, in 1940. Afterward, he served in the South Pacific during World War II, where he received the Bronze Star.

After returning to Flint in 1945, Allen began Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops at Kearsley School and Redeemer Lutheran Church, the first of many acts that marked him as a prolific volunteer.

John said being a Scout leader was a perfect postion for his father. "He used to take us camping in the Upper Peninsula." he said. "That was before the (Mackinac) Bridge and freeways, so it was a 2 1/2 day trip to the Porcupine Mountains."

Allen and his wife were members and officers of the Friends of Sloan Museum, the Genesee Valley antique Dealers Association, the Crossroads Village Adivsory Committee, several preservation projects and Friends of Crossroads Village Carousel, which they helped found.

"They did everything together," John said. "It got to the point where instead of two people, they were just one couple."

After retiring from General Motors after 23 years as an accountant, Allen devoted much of his time to building old-fashioned wooden toys.

"He had a workshop right here at home," John said. "Even before he retired, he spent most nights there. After he retired he spent hundreds of hours a year there."

Allen also made toys in the Crossroads Village Toy Barn, where he sold some of his creations to visiting children. "He didn't do volunteer work to gain recognition," John said. "He did it because it needed to get done. He's an example to all of us."

Allen is survived by his wife, Julia; his sons, Keith Jr, John, and David; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Viewing will be at Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 W. Hill Road in Flint Township, today from 6-9 p.m. and Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. The funeral will be at the funeral home on Saturday at 1 p.m.

David Miller covers nonprofit agencies and general assignment. He can be reached at (810) 766-6249.

Reprinted from the Flint Journal, Thursday, April 1, 1999