By Jody Stewart
Keith Wilkerson, 66, who had dedicated 50 years of his life to public service passed away on Friday, July 18, and was honored during a memorial service at his home church, LaFayette Heights Baptist Church on Monday.
Wilkerson’s three children Ben Wilkerson, Kim Wilkerson and Amy Clark said the day was such a celebration of his life. “Everyone knew dad, he had either worked with them as a firefighter or helped them in some sort of volunteer service.”
During Chief Keith Wilkerson’s service, family, colleagues and friends shared memories of the veteran firefighter. Many referred to Wilkerson as Chief and others referred to him as Cowboy and shared a memory of him in little league wearing shorts and cowboy boots.
When the service
moved from the church to the graveside service, fire trucks from LaFayette FD, Opelika FD, Auburn FD, Ridge Grove VFD, Union Hill VFD, Five Points VFD, Paces Point VFD, Still Waters VFD, Dadeville FD, Hugley FD, East Alabama FD and Cussetta VFD drove trucks and displayed flags over the road in honor and memory of Chief Wilkerson.
Keith Wilkerson was born in Randolph County to the late Ernest Wilkerson and the late Eunice Burke Wilkerson, but grew up attending LaFayette Heights Baptist Church and graduated from Chambers Academy in 1975 where he was one of the original Rebel football players.
Wilkerson’s 50 years of service carried him to many cities across east Alabama but his career in fire service began with the Opelika Fire Department. Wilkerson then returned to LaFayette in 1981 to work at the city’s fire department. Wilkerson served in many roles as firefighter, driver and eventually the city’s fire chief for 25 years. He retired from LaFayette Fire and EMS in 2013 with over 31 years of service.
But Wilkerson’s heart to serve others kept him in the game. In December 2014, he was appointed chief of the City of Dadeville Fire Department and retired from that position in 2021, but continued to volunteer at Paces Point where he was currently serving as Fire Chief.
Wilkerson’s 50 years of first responder work included countless hours of volunteer work and mentoring. Wilkerson shared his experience and volunteered at fire departments such as Ridge Grove VFD, Still Waters VFD and Paces Point VFD. Wilkerson also served as President to the Tallapoosa Volunteer Fire Department Association.
Audra Clanton Wilkerson, his wife of 39 years said while many called her husband “Chief” his favorite name was “PaPa.” “If he was not fighting fires or volunteering his favorite thing to do was to go fishing and to spend time with his three grandchildren.
Chief Wilkerson’s son Ben Wilkerson is following in his dad’s footsteps and has chosen a career as a first responder and is currently working at Paces Point in Dadeville.