William Keith Dempsey, age 76, passed away on April 24 at his home in Orofino after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer five months ago.
Keith, the youngest of three children, was born at his grandmother’s home in Shaw, MS on Dec. 19, 1942, to Martha Emma Earline Washington and Woodrow Wilson Dempsey.
He grew up in Anguilla, MS, graduating from Anguilla High School in 1960. Keith attended Mississippi Delta Jr College where he majored in construction technology and played on the Trojan baseball team.
On July 1, 1962, Keith married Martha Ann Maranto at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Anguilla. They would have celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary this year along with their seven children, 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
After several visits to the northwest, Keith decided he wanted to raise his family in Idaho so in 1977 the family moved to Peck and then in 1979 to their home in Orofino which remains the family home today.
Keith spent his entire life in the construction field retiring in 2016 after 25 plus years with the State of Idaho as a field representative. He taught flagging classes at Lewis-Clark State College and always enjoyed visiting with his many students who would express appreciation for the job opportunities that opened up to them in the flagging field.
After a major heart attack in 1990, Keith began his daily walks. Over the years, he logged many miles walking around town and around the levee at City Park. Although he loved Idaho, he remained loyal to the strong southern tradition of greeting anyone who passed with either a friendly wave or a nod. If he wasn’t seen taking his daily walks or sitting on the front porch of his home during nice weather, after a few days everyone would ask if he was okay.
Keith became known for his catfish fries where he spent many hours frying up catfish and hush-puppies and making shrimp gumbo for family and friends. He enjoyed smoking ribs and pork roasts on his famous smoker built for and delivered to him by his brother-in-law, George McWilliams – all the way from Mississippi.
For over 20 years, during Coach Bo Cummings’ reign, Keith was “chef-in-charge” of the Spaghetti Feed fundraisers for the Orofino High School baseball team. He coached Little League Baseball for several years and was instrumental in bringing T-Ball to the Orofino area.
Dubbed “Pops” by his grandchildren and their friends, he was always happy to see any of them arrive for a visit (and to see them leave!!) and they all enjoyed his wry “sense of humor”.
Keith was preceded in death by his parents, Earline and Woodrow Dempsey, his brother, Gary Dempsey; sister, Joyce McWilliams; and nephew, James Keith “Jake” Dempsey.
Keith leaves behind his wife, Martha Ann, who resides at the family home in Orofino, his seven children: Stephanie (Chris) Nekich of Spokane, WA; Michael Dempsey of Seattle, WA; John (Jennifer) Dempsey of Miami, FL; Stephen Dempsey of Spokane, WA; Monica Dempsey of Orofino; Patrick (Kim) Dempsey of Lewiston; and Jocelyn Dempsey-Dugger of Orofino and his grandchildren, Rachel, Steven, Carleigh, Marah, Will, Lauren, Heath, Heather, Hannah, Tanner, Paige, Peyton, Preslee, Ashlee, Teigen, J. T., Joey and his great grandchildren, Lilly, Landon, Owen and Conor.
Funeral services were held Monday, April 29, at Pine Hills Funeral Home Chapel with burial in Riverside Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to I CARE, 2134 Canyon Creek Road, Orofino, ID 83544 or the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) Northwest Chapter, 1215 4th Avenue #1100, Seattle WA 98161.