Jerry Keohane Jr. started donating blood in 1966 when he was 37. Since then the military veteran has given blood every 60 days like clockwork one pint at a time.
After enlisting in the Army Air Force during World War II, he joined the Marine Corps Reserve for the Korean War.
He then joined the Postal Service and worked as a mail carrier in Riverside.
Today at age 82, Keohane has tallied 63 gallons of blood. That’s 504 trips for this Town of Tonawanda resident to the American Red Cross to give blood.
This Veterans Day, the twice-widowed man with four grandchildren will visit five cemeteries beginning at 7 a.m.
People Talk: Why did you enlist at age 16?
Jerry Keohane Jr.: There were no jobs. I wasn’t a very good student so I figured I’d better go in the service. I spent four years in the Army Air Force, and when I came home there was no jobs. It was the early ’50s so I joined the Marine Corps Reserve, and they took the whole unit for the Korean War. The post office was the only place that had openings that gave credit for my military time.
PT: Why did you start giving blood?
JK: They had a drive so I gave, and then I gave every time I could. It’s easy if you have a regimen.
PT: Every 56 days?
JK: I average every 60 days. That’s the best way to do it. When you come home from giving you put the sticker on your calendar to mark the next time. I can give again the third of December – in the afternoon from 12 to 4. They used to have a Super Six Club. If you gave six times throughout the year, they gave you a pin, and then they gave you a bar for every year. Three years at least since they did away with that.
PT: You’ve been donating blood for more than half your life. How did the Red Cross mark your 63rd gallon?
JK: I received a letter in the mail.
PT: How many trips have you made to the Red Cross? How many gallons of gas have you used?
JK: I never gave it a thought. As long as I’m capable and they’ll accept it, I will continue. They used to have a cutoff at age 70, but they eliminated that and now you can give as long as you’re healthy.
PT: What do you get out of it?
JK: It’s a good feeling. You’re satisfied that you did something for somebody else even though you don’t know who it is. You don’t know what happens to your blood, where it’s going to end up or how many people you’ve saved. Plus they say it’s good for your health.
PT: Do you eat healthy?
JK: I did until my wife died. Then I went to the TV dinners and stuff like that. I don’t take any prescription medicine at all.
PT: Do you know you lose a pound every time you donate a pint of blood?
JK: No. I have lost 20 pounds since my wife died, though. It had to do with my diet, I’m sure. It has nothing to do with blood. You don’t eat properly when you’re cooking for yourself.
PT: You do realize that after this is published, you’ll have women calling on you.
JK: For what? They have to take a number, get in line and fall in and cover down.
PT: Good luck with that one.
PT: Why are you so healthy?
JK: Maybe because I give blood. I have a Manhattan every evening at 5 o’clock, and I smoke my pipe for an hour at 10 o’clock. I had my physical a month ago, and after all the test results were in, my doctor said I was perfect. I was never actually sick nor have I been in the hospital overnight other than once when I was in the service. I was blessed in that respect.
PT: Would you call yourself a regimented individual?
JK: Absolutely, because of my military background. You never lose it. Once a Marine, always a Marine. That’s where I got regimented. It’s drilled into you. At the VFW I haven’t missed a meeting in 40 years, maybe once during the funeral of my second wife.
PT: How do you keep active?
JK: I do a lot of walking, and I’m a military insignia collector. I have a display at our [VFW] Post, and I change the display periodically. At one time I had all the medals, from the Medal of Honor to all of the campaign medals from the Civil War to Vietnam. I had four Medals of Honor, one from the Civil War when Lincoln gave them to the whole regiment of the 27th Maine Volunteer Infantry if they would re-enlist. They struck all these medals, and then Congress purged them all in 1917.
My collection was ripped off by a guy who is now deceased. Police caught him years later after he robbed a museum in Vermont. I started over, collecting military shoulder patches.
PT: You also volunteer for Meals on Wheels?
JK: Every Wednesday from May to October I drive and a friend of mine, who’s a retired schoolteacher, runs the meals in. I don’t like to drive too much in the winter. They will compensate you for gas if you ask them, but I never have. It’s not big a deal. They give a pin every five years.
PT: You’re the ideal citizen.
JK: Well I hope to be. It’s a real privilege living in this country. I like to contribute – a little payback doesn’t hurt.