Spotlight on Don McKeen
Passed away 2017.03.15

Past President D.C. (Don) McKeen, who became president of the Ottawa-Valley Chapter in 1964, passed away on Wednesday March 15th, 2017 at the age of 95. Don was a delightful fellow with lots of stories to tell, including the story published below in the March 2005 Communique about his memories of the refrigeration history and cutting ice on the river with his Dad. Don was in the Navy during WWII and held many honors in our industry, including some below:

The following is an article from the March 2005 Capital Communique from Don McKeen:

Let’s Keep the “R” in ASHRAE! “R” is for Refrigeration

A letter from Don McKeen
When it comes to the subject of refrigeration it is hard to know where to begin. There is so much.

My father owned and operated an ice, coal and wood business in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan before my time. I was born in 1921. He harvested the ice out of the North Saskatchewan River. When I was a kid, 10 or 11, I traveled around with the iceman delivering the ice – three hundred pound blocks. He would cut the blocks up into smaller sizes, down to twenty-five or fifty pounds for home delivery. There were two theatres in Prince Albert, one advertised as being comfort cooled. We would deliver a couple of three hundred pound blocks, placed in a chamber over which air would be circulated by a large fan and then circulated through the theatre by a duct system. This was in the mid 1930’s.

I was in the Navy during WWII and after coming back from overseas in 1944, ended up as a gunnery instructor at HMCS Cornwallis training base in Digby, Nova Scotia. They had an ice-skating and hockey arena and it was there that I first got interested in refrigeration. May 1945, it was near the end of the month and quite warm outside. I was asked if I know how such good ice conditions could be maintained and in reply I mentioned something about cold brine being circulated through pipes under the ice. Anyway, this aroused my curiosity. I visited the base library that evening and came away with two books: one on Refrigeration published by the Ontario Department of Agriculture and the second a huge 1500 page volume on Thermodynamics. The former was just what I needed and I learned much from this book.

Amazing things started to click into place. Destiny or something like that. One day I was having a chat with the base protestant chaplain who dropped by the gunnery from time-to-time. On this occasion he asked as to when I expected to get my discharge out of the Navy and also as to what I was expecting to do on “Civvy” street. I mentioned this refrigeration “thing” and he came right back with the comment “you are talking to the right person!” “How come?” I asked. He told me that his roommate was the officer in charge of all the refrigeration on the base and that he was also teaching a course in refrigeration to a class of Navy motor pool mechanics. He thought that he could arrange for me to sit in whenever I had a chance and that’s just what I did!

So it is now August 1945 and I am engaged to be married and on my way to Montreal for my discharge out of the Canadian Navy. I had joined the Navy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan January 15, 1941, exactly 4 years and 8 months before. The government had started up a technical school for WWII vets, including a two-year course in refrigeration. I was able to enroll and we were off and running. I graduated as a Refrigeration Technologist. While at school, I arranged to have interviews with two of Canada’s largest refrigeration companies, CIMCO (York) and Linde Canadian Refrigeration Co. Ltd. Right after graduation I was hired by Linde and I never looked back. Linde was 100% ammonia until towards the end of WWII. I was only the second Freon man to join Linde. I had four great years with Linde, then moved on to Murray Air Conditioning Co. Ltd. in Montreal. I was with Murray just one year, a great company and a great guy, but an opportunity came up that I just could not resist.

So on January 1, 1951, I was on my way to Brantford, Ontario to join the sales staff of Keeprite Products Limited, a sparkling new manufacturer of refrigeration products. I spent four years in Brantford and then it was back to Montreal as Sales Manager of all Eastern Canada including Ottawa. I could have taken Toronto; it was my choice. A wonderful company and I worked for great people. We rapidly moved into air conditioning, then heating, then building products and then OEM products like Frigidaire. I was one of the founding charter members of the Montreal A.S.R.E. Section. Some exciting times.

However, opportunity came knocking once again. So on June 24, 1959, it was off to Ottawa where I became a wholesaler of refrigeration and air conditioning products and components. It was tough leaving Keeprite after 9 1/2 years – I just missed my 10-year watch by six months! It was hard on my boss at the time, the guy that had hired me and became a good friend. He was the person who got me to join A.S.R.E. in Toronto in September 1951. He could not understand me leaving Keeprite, but his boss did and helped arrange that I be the Keeprite distributor in and around the Ottawa area, a big  help for me. I was almost immediately elected to the A.S.H.R.A.E. Ottawa Valley Chapter Board of Governors and became President in 1964-1965.

These are just some of the ways that refrigeration has been in my career and life. With my focus on the “R” in A.S.H.R.A.E., this is what I do not want to happen:

Let’s Keep the “R” in ASHRAE! “R” is for Refrigeration

And this:
Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar. One says, “I've lost my electron.” The other says, “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I'm positive...”