Bernard A. "Barney" Keller, 97, of Duncansville, died Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, at Van Zandt VA Medical Center, Altoona.
He was the son of Frank and Helen (Porta) Keller.
Surviving are his wife, Carol (Noonan Wendle) Keller; daughters: Constance (husband, Michael Preston), Cynthia (husband, Chester Sobus) and Susan Strayer (companion, Robert Holland); stepdaughters: Rebecca Swaney (Michael Strangis), Diane Shoemaker (William) and Angela Lynch (Kenneth); son: Timothy (companion, Denise Sturdy); 10 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and two brothers: Raymond and Stephen.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia (Noonan) Keller, who died May 29, 1998; a son, Thomas F. Keller; a stepson, Stanley J. Wendle; and siblings: George, Albert, Anthony, Mary, Joseph, Jerome, Charles and Helen; and half-siblings: Edward, Margaret, Frank, Anna, James and John.
Mr. Keller was a graduate of Altoona Catholic High School, Class of 1941. While in the military, he attended Kansas State College, and after discharge from the service, attended classes at Johns Hopkins University.
He retired from Western Electric in 1984, with 42 years of service. His first position was material handler, and his last position was in the Wage Incentive Department.
Barney enjoyed ballroom dancing, working puzzles (mostly cryptograms) and yard work.
He was a member of St. Mary Catholic Church, Hollidaysburg. He was also a member of Bavarian Aid Society, Horseshoe Seniors, Golden Nuggets, VFW Duncansville, American Legion and Allegheny ex-POW Group.
He was inducted into the U.S. Army in March 1943 with the 97th Infantry Division at Fort Leonard. He served during WWII, and was an ex -POW. He was sent to Germany in 1945. In April, after several fire fights, 20 of his division ran into an ambush, and after holding off the enemy for a whole day, they had to surrender in Cheb, Czechoslovakia. They were then marched about 35 to 50 miles and placed in a building with Russian prisoners. Later, the Americans were placed in a different compound at another location. They had to work each day, clearing brush and small trees from the side of railroad tracks. They received very little food - one bowl of soup each day. During the month of his imprisonment, he lost 30 pounds.
During imprisonment, he counteracted his worries by dwelling on the funny things that happened. It amused him how the guards took their shoes and pants every night after two of his buddies escaped one night. Again, how funny it seemed when they watched a German woman plant seed potatoes all day and that night they dug most of them up and ate them. He once got some dandelion plants, found an old rusty can, washed the can and dandelions the best he could, put them in water and boiled the hell out of them and ate them. He remembered being really full for the first time since his capture but "got sick as a dog."
He was a Browning Automatic Rifleman with a P.F.C. rating, and later as a prisoner of war was given an advance in rating to corporal.
He was honorably discharged from the service at Fort Dix, N.J., on March 12, 1946. On Nov. 12, 2011, then-Congressman Bill Shuster presented him with the following awards: Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and Bronze Star Attachment (Double), WW II Victory Medal and Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII.
Friends will be received from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at Sorge Funeral Home and Crematory Inc., Hollidaysburg, where a vigil service will be held. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, February 1, 2020, at St. Mary Catholic Church, Hollidaysburg, by Father Allen E. Thomas, with a committal service to follow.
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