Albion mechanic turns 80, reflects on career
John Keding says the job has become more high-tech
Photos by Tom Rivers
ALBION – John Keding turned 80 today, and many of his customers and former employees stopped by his shop, Keding Automotive, to wish him well on his birthday.
Keding has owned the business at 309 East Ave. for more than four decades. He opened it on Jan. 16, 1974. But he has been working as a mechanic since he was a teen-ager, first repairing lawn mowers.
He learned the auto mechanic trade at the General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich., beginning the two-year program in 1953. He worked for General Motors for three years before a two-year stint in Army at Fort Dix from 1958 to 1960.
He returned to Albion in 1960 and worked as a mechanic for a car dealership for 13 years before a brief stint as an electrician.
He opened his owned business nearly 42 years ago and has been happy to come to work each day, fixing cars and connecting with customers.
“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it,” he said. “I’ve spent more than half of my life here.”
Keding has two full-time mechanics with Peter Heard and Jason Lutes. Karen Dibley is the office manager.
Heard has worked for Keding for 20 years.
“He’s a very intelligent man,” Heard said. “I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Heard said the mechanic’s job is physically demanding. He is amazed Keding tackles the work with such zest.
Keding said the work has become more high-tech with problems in cars more difficult to diagnose due to computers and electronics in vehicles.
“It’s a different style of analyzation,” Keding said. “It’s not as simple as using your hands. In this type of work you have to use your head and figure out why it’s not working. To do that you need to know how it should work.”
Keding said there is a mechanic shortage in the country. He thinks parents and schools push too many students away from careers in the skilled trades.
“This is a good business to get into, but it’s not easy,” Keding said. “We don’t have enough mechanics. It’s the same with electricians and plumbers. People don’t want to get their hands dirty.”