Allen Webb “Butch” Kieffer Sr. was born July 5, 1945, to Newton Pierce and Isabel Webb Kieffer. Butch was reared near Stillwell with his siblings, Eugene, Harvey, Carolyn and Rosanne. He was affectionately known as “Butch.” Butch passed away at his home after an extended illness May 30. In the “dash” between 1945 and 2019, this man did a lot of living and enjoying life.
After high school, Butch joined the National Guard. His dad built a home for him on Chestnut Street in Springfield while he was gone for six months of training. On April 2, 1967, he married his high school sweetheart, Virginia “Ginger” Sheffield in Guyton. They have three sons: Allen W. Kieffer Jr. (Sheba), Scott (Stacey) and Matthew (Sara). Butch loved his family “Big” as Stacey said and his seven grandchildren (Christopher, Allison, Candace, Morgan, Carlee, Pierce and Mallory) were his pride and joy. After Butch had retired and was no longer working, he never missed a day talking to his sons by telephone.
Kieffer was reared first in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church but by the time he married his family had moved their membership to Springfield Methodist Church. Ginger and Butch were active members and he served in many capacities and on many committees and held positions of leadership. As an annual “stand in” for Santa Claus, he brought joy to all the little children. He was sorry he had to give that up when his health failed.
Butch worked with his father in Kieffer Construction and for a time with his brother Harvey, eventually working solo and later with the third generation with his sons in the business. Scott Kieffer now operates the company under the family name. The builders were always known for perfection in their construction. Sometime after Butch retired, he operated a hardware store at 309 South Laurel St, in his beloved town of Springfield. It had a full-service paint store with a huge paint can displaying color swatches. He built a platform with railing indoor front porch complete with a swing and rocking chairs where the town’s people and old retired fellows sat and “shot the breeze”. The store later added a barber shop complete with barber pole and chair inside the store.
Butch served on the Springfield City Council, serving two term,s and served on the City Planning and Zoning Board. He always said he would one day be “mayor” but earned the self given title of “Godfather” with his service to the community.
Butch was a big supporter of reviving the Mars Theatre in Springfield. He rented the building for a while until everything could be worked out for the funding, purchase and renovation by the City of Springfield. Many events saw Butch and Ginger in attendance.
From December 1975 to June 1979, he served on the Effingham County Hospital Board of Directors. He served again in April 1998 to February 2006. Butch was instrumental in keeping the hospital going and in expanding its mission and service. For his distinguished years of service, he was honored in 2013 when the community meeting room was named Kieffer Hall.
His proudest accomplishment was serving on the Board of Directors of the Michael Guido Ministries in Metter. He was honored with the Sower Award for Uncompromising Faith Centered Leadership from 2001-2011. Butch spent many hours with his friend Michael in Metter eating suppers and enjoying many Christmases at the beautiful gardens.
Butch lost his maternal grandfather and uncle in service to our country in World War I and II, respectively. He always had a soft spot for the men deployed from the local Guard Unit. He did many things for those left behind, including Christmas parties and helped individuals when needs arose. Butch stood in for Santa at these events. He was awarded the Minuteman Award in appreciation for his dedication and support to men and women of the Army National Guard who served to defend freedom.
Butch was a longtime member of Jim Long’s Supper Club on the Savannah River at Jim’s cabin. He was the life of the party at the fellowship.
Butch took over Ginger’s making of pickles by her old family recipe every year or other year. These soaked for days in brine in buckets in the Party House he built where he entertained friends and family in his later years. His friend Don Nelson helped until his health failed. Many jars of these pickles were given to family and friends. Small jars were shared with his customers at the Hardware Store. Ginger promised Butch as one of his last requests that she would make pickles this year.
As Butch and Ginger faced challenges in their health, the party house was handicap equipped and it became their home. Butch only lived in two places, on Bethany Road in Stillwell and on Chestnut Street in Springfield through his whole life.
As Mother Teresa said, “Do small things with great love.” He lived up to that motto and did deeds often anonymously over and over without boasting.
Santa Claus’s suit sits empty and the city where he stood in for him as well as his church will miss this man. The many buildings he built will stand for years to come. His family has been left a legacy of love and Christian service set forth by him and Ginger’s example. Butch loved God, his family and Springfield. The Godfather of Springfield and his keen sense of humor may be gone by the legend lives on.
This was written by Susan Exley from Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos or historical information to share contact her at 912-754-6681 or email firstname.lastname@example.org