As four red heart-shaped rockets burst overhead in Livingood Park the evening of June 22, some spectators’ thoughts surely turned to Keevil Johnson.
Those first four blasts on Elverson Day, and the streaks of gold at the finale called “Keevil’s Gold,” were a tribute to Johnson, who died unexpectedly May 9 of a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. He was just 59.
Johnson may have been one of the borough’s newest residents, having moved to Elverson in February after visiting friends in the borough many times, but he wasted no time getting involved in the community.
“Even in his short amount of time here, he made a lot of friends quickly,” said Borough Council Member Esther Prosser, a close friend of Johnson.
Johnson loved fitness, promptly becoming a member of the Twin Valley Fitness Center. He was also a very religious man, joining the new members class at the Community Evangelical Free Church.
A former employee of Delta Airlines, Johnson cared for his aging mother in his home city of Atlanta, GA. He decided to pack up and move to Elverson after she died in October, because “he loved the safe, quiet feel” of the borough, Prosser said.
“He was a very fun-loving man, generous and high-spirited,” she recalled fondly. “He was a helper, always willing to help you out no matter what.”
He had been to Elverson Day last year and loved it so much that he was anxious to get involved in it this year. He joined the committee, organizing the children’s activities for the day and coordinating the fireworks display with International Fireworks.
So when he passed away, it left “a huge hole at the table” for the committee, Prosser said.
“He was an amazing, enthusiastic person,” said Dave Reynolds, a sales manager at International Fireworks. “He was concerned about giving people a good show, and the safety of his people.”
Reynolds said he asked the fireworks crew if they could do something special for Johnson, and they took it upon themselves to organize the tribute.
“They actually launched from the northern end of the park,” Prosser said of the fireworks. “So one of the reasons they were so good was that they were so close. I mean, fireworks are always good, but these were phenomenal.”
“Everybody just raved about them,” said Roseann Thomas, vice president of marketing for the Morgantown Area Business Association. “When the band played its last notes of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever,’ the fireworks started with a blast of 4 red hearts, and at the end a lot of gold-colored streaks of light that lit up the Elverson Sky.”
Prosser also expressed her thanks to the 10 businesses that donated money to pay for the fireworks. After a beautiful display for Elverson’s centennial two years ago, the borough couldn’t afford them last year. Without the help of the businesses who donated, and Johnson, there might not have been fireworks this year.
“It was a cool way to end the day – great weather, great food, and then right after the band, you have this great show,” Prosser said.
Editor’s note: Tri County Record correspondent Carol Quaintance contributed to this article. The editor would also like to thank Elverson Borough Newsletter contributor Jody Phillips for the use of her photographs of the fireworks. You can see Phillips’ story in the next issue of the Elverson Borough Newsletter.