John Keding – “Mr. Lion” – passes away at 85, just months after retiring as mechanic

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2021 at 7:13 pm

Albion man worked as a mechanic for 70 years, served in Lions Club for more than 50 years

Photos by Tom Rivers: John Keding is shown outside Keding Automotive in Albion when he celebrated his 80th birthday on Sept. 2, 2015.

ALBION – The community is mourning John Keding, a long-time mechanic and active member of the Albion Lions Club for more than a half century.

Besides fixing automobiles for decades, Keding served with the Lions since 1968. If people had the sausage and peppers at the Lions Club booth at the Strawberry Festival or at other community events, there’s a good chance that Keding was working the grill.

He was “the keeper of the roses” for the Lions Club, using space at his shop to store about 350 dozen roses that the Lions Club sold as a fundraiser near Mother’s Day. He also had a collection box at Keding Automotive for people to donate used glasses to Lions, which would give them to people in need.

Keding also cooked pancakes at the fly-in breakfasts at the Pine Hill Airport in Barre.

“He was the backbone of the Albion Lions Club,” said longtime member Dennis Smith. “He really helped to establish the Lions Club in Albion.”

For 25 years he did the thankless job of being club secretary, keeping track of reports and other paperwork and sending monthly reports to Lions International. The other club members often referred to him as “Mr. Lion.”

“I enjoy the camaraderie with the guys,” Keding told the Orleans Hub in February 2014, when he was recognized for 45 years in the Lions Club. “We do things for the community without getting paid for it.”

John Keding works the grill during the Rock the Park Festival at Bullard Park in July 2015.

Keding retired as a mechanic in August, a month before his 85thbirthday. He intended to retire at 65 but enjoyed interacting with customers and getting their vehicles back on the road, said his daughter Christine Buorgiorne.

His last three years he continued to run Keding Automotive on East Avenue, despite needing dialysis three times a week due to failed kidneys. Often he would take a short nap after dialysis and show up at the shop, grabbing a wrench.

Kevin Howard, a retire state trooper and senior investigator, met Keding in the late ’70s when Keding worked on the patrol cars for the State Police.

“He was always so accommodating to us,” Howard said today.

Howard joined the Lions Club about 15 years ago and also served as a local town justice. Keding, even while battling health issues, kept showing up at work and for the Lions, Howard said.

“He was always willing to help the community,” Howard said. “He never seemed to want to quit.”

Keding started as a mechanic at age 14, first fixing lawn mowers and installing turning signals. 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.

John Keding of Albion cooks sausage at the fly-in breakfast at Pine Hill Airport in September 2013.

He opened his own business at the East Avenue location in January 1974. During an interview in August, Keding said the work has become more high-tech with problems in cars more difficult to diagnose due to computers and electronics in vehicles.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said about his career. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”

Keding also taught mechanics at BOCES and led an evening class that he called W.O.W. (Women on Wheels), giving women the basics in keeping a car running.

Keding and his wife of 63 years, Pat, raised three children in Albion. Their daughter Christine Buongiorne said her dad made family time a priority and enjoyed Sunday drives with his wife, including trips to Letchworth State Park.

Keding was a good teacher, and encouraged his kids, including two daughters, to know how to use tools.

“Dad was from a different era and time,” Buongiorne said today. “Being in a service club was a way for him to give back. With his career as a mechanic, he loved what he did. He was not a quitter in any way, shape or form.”