Glen Key, former FMCA national president, turns 90.
By Todd Moning
FMCA.com Web Editor
Let us, then, be up and doing
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
— From “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Glen R. Key, L26355, who recently turned 90, memorized the poem “A Psalm of Life” when he was in the sixth grade. In many ways, his personal and professional life have embodied these words.
“I was born with the curiosity and ambition to try anything,” he said, “and I had the utmost confidence in my abilities.”
Born November 17, 1916, in Chandler, Oklahoma, Glen always has lived life with great expectations. In his professional endeavors, whether they involved oil, banking, politics, or motorhoming, his successful ventures far exceeded his failures. One of the successes occurred in 1986 when, at age 71, he was elected FMCA’s 11th national president.
Long before motorhoming and FMCA entered the picture, good fortune and initiative enabled him to pursue other career interests.
A nice nest egg
On January 1, 1954, Glen formed the Pucket Drilling Company with three partners. They owned four drilling rigs and began sinking wells. The wells produced oil, but not enough to pay the bills.
“Back then, high-volume crude oil cost only $1.10 per barrel, so it was hard to make money,” Glen said. “But we were lucky to find some oil in a little pool. We got in and got out in 10 months and made a pretty good nest egg for that period.”
They got out because a Florida company offered to buy their operation. The deal was closed November 1, 1954, and the four partners took their wives out for a big steak dinner that evening, Glen said.
His $37,500 investment had netted $375,000 in 10 months. He received a down payment, and the balance in payments of about $10,000 per month.
In April 1955 he bought a bank in Wellston, Oklahoma, 12 miles west of Chandler. He would go on to acquire and build several more banks in Oklahoma during the 1960s and 1970s.
During his banking career, Glen also pursued many civic and political interests. “I had a good ride for about 20 years [1946 to 1966]. I was active; I was able to participate in many activities of the state of Oklahoma and the Democratic Party.”
Active, indeed. Highlights of his involvement include:
- Lincoln County campaign manager for the Oklahoma gubernatorial races of 1946 and 1950;
- President of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce in 1951;
- Coordinator for the Democratic Party, in charge of Democratic headquarters in Oklahoma City, during the 1952 presidential election;
- General manager of the Grand River Dam authority in 1954, appointed by Oklahoma Governor Raymond Gary;
- Candidate for State Treasurer of Oklahoma in both 1962 and 1966 (defeated each time);
- Delegate to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
He became well-acquainted with most of the politicians and political leaders of the day, and was on a first-name basis with governors and U.S. senators and representatives.
In late 1975 and early 1976, Glen and his wife, Martha, talked about buying a motorhome. Around that time, Glen’s father, Samuel, had been experiencing health problems and wanted to go to Guymon, in western Oklahoma, to visit his brother.
“I told him I was ordering a new motorhome that would be ready in about two weeks and I would take him to Guymon,” Glen said. “If he became tired he would be able to lie down in the motorhome at any time.” But Samuel Key died in his sleep February 29, 1976, just before the new motorhome was delivered. On March 1 the Keys took delivery of a 31-foot Executive, built on a Dodge chassis.
Earlier that year, an advertisement for a Family Motor Coach Association winter convention had caught Glen and Martha’s attention. The event was to be held March 2 to 4 at Fiesta Park in Harlingen, Texas. “We thought it would be a good idea to take off for a few days, so we sent in our money,” Glen said. Unfortunately, rainy weather put a damper on some convention activities. “But it broke the ground for us with FMCA and we met a lot of people of all ages,” he recalled.
At that convention in Harlingen, Glen also first laid eyes on a Blue Bird motorhome. A seed was planted.
Motorhoming and FMCA
Early in 1978, the Keys purchased a new 31-foot Blue Bird with a Caterpillar diesel engine. They drove it 50,000 miles before picking up a new 35-foot Blue Bird in 1981 at the factory in Fort Valley, Georgia.
In the spring of 1981 they started doing some “serious traveling,” Glen said. They ventured to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the Calgary Stampede and a Blue Bird owners rally. After the rally they headed west to the Frazier River Valley, to Banff, Lake Louise, and the ice glaciers. They proceeded to Vancouver and down the West Coast through Washington, Oregon, and California, driving a route that looked out over the Pacific Ocean.
But the motorhome excursion that had the biggest impact on the Keys was a 1983 caravan trip with 35 other Blue Bird owners.
“We went to Boston and then took a leisurely two-week trip up the East Coast to Nova Scotia. We particularly liked sight-seeing in Boston and the stop at the L.L. Bean store in Maine. We enjoyed this trip more than any other,” Glen said.
During the trip, opportunity knocked. One morning, while out for a walk, he ran into Phil Rogers, L1895, one of FMCA’s vice presidents at the time. Phil, aware of Glen’s background in finance, asked him to consider serving on FMCA’s Finance Committee.
At that time, Glen and Martha had been eliminating obligations and did not want to be tied down with anything. “Martha and I talked it over and decided it wouldn’t matter if we obligated ourselves to one year of service. We thought that if we belonged to an organization, we should give back something.”
The next morning, Glen was appointed to the Finance Committee by FMCA national president John Linebaugh, L12971. “I enjoyed the challenge, and the next year the president and others talked me into being a candidate for treasurer, and I agreed and was elected.”
His commitment to FMCA continued to expand. He served as national treasurer in 1984, as national senior vice president in 1985 and 1986, as national president from 1986 to 1988, and as immediate past president from 1988 to 1990.
“So my one year of service turned into eight years of service to a great national organization.”
The most impressive aspect of FMCA, Glen said, is its ability to bring motorhome owners together. “It’s the fellowship you have with other members as time goes on … you have those acquaintances you look forward to seeing … it’s just a bringing together of a group of people that makes it interesting. The conventions are, to me, the frosting on the cake, because you see all those new coaches and your mouth starts watering.”
Glen was elected FMCA national president in July 1986 during FMCA’s convention. During his presidency FMCA experienced tremendous growth. By January 1987 the association had issued more than 85,105 membership numbers. It had amassed more than 46,000 family members and approximately 1,300 commercial members. In 1988 FMCA assigned its 100,000th membership.
Glen formed a Blue Ribbon Committee to explore ways to cope with future growth and challenges.
Indicative of FMCA’s growth was the expansion and renovation of the association’s national office facility in Cincinnati. By December 1986, the national office staff had begun moving into a new addition. During his tenure, Glen also initiated plans to buy the property for FMCA’s Round Bottom Road office building. This structure now houses FMCA’s member services department, including the mail forwarding operations, as well as storage facilities and a campground.
FMCA also celebrated its 25th anniversary while Glen was president. The association held a gala party at the 25th annual summer international convention in July 1988 at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
Glen received the Member of the Year Award in 1990, presented by FMCA National President Richard Hammann, L40104, at the annual membership meeting during FMCA’s 27th Annual Summer Convention in Minot, North Dakota.
Before, during, and after Glen’s presidency, he and Martha traveled often by motorhome. In 1983 they bought a new 38-foot Newell, which they drove many miles during Glen’s years of dedicated service to FMCA.
They used the Newell and their other motorhomes not only for the travel benefits but to help cope with Martha’s illness. In December 1968 she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Doctors performed surgery in early January 1969, and Martha endured a series of radiation treatments.
The surgery had gone well, but in the early 1970s Martha began experiencing swelling and repeated infections in her left arm. A series of antibiotic shots, administered monthly by Glen for several years, finally rid the bug from her system. However, the breast cancer returned in 1989.
In 1990, when it looked like Martha would not be able to travel at all, Glen sold the Newell. But after her radiation and chemotherapy treatments, they decided they would rather go places and do things than sit home and dwell on their problems. So, they bought another motorhome, a new 40-foot Foretravel.
Although motorhoming couldn’t heal Martha, it made traveling easier and more pleasant. “It made it easier for me to take care of her,” Glen said. “Of course, we had everything in there we needed to make her comfortable. She did enjoy getting out, and more and more we did that.”
They enjoyed trips to Palm Springs in the winters of 1991 and 1992. They attended some local rallies but logged only 20,000 miles in the Foretravel coach before selling it in the fall of 1994.
In all, the Keys visited all 48 contiguous U.S. states by motorhome and made plenty of friends, including FMCA members Charles and Jeanie Cheneweth, L9986 (Charles also served as FMCA national president), and Richard and Karen Hammann. “They were the cream of the crop and came to visit us twice after Martha was unable to travel,” Glen said.
Martha passed away in November 1997. She and Glen had been married 59-1/2 years. She was the second family member to succumb to breast cancer. In 1985 their oldest daughter, Anita, also died from the disease, at age 44.
To this day, Mr. Key doesn’t miss motorhoming; he misses motorhoming with Martha. “After my wife died, I bought a Winnebago,” he recalled. “I made one trip in it and sold it. Being by myself, it was no good at all.”
Glen Key today
During Glen and Martha’s nearly 60-year marriage, they lived in Wichita Falls, Texas, and seven different Oklahoma towns. Today, Glen lives in the town where he was born, Chandler, approximately 50 miles east of Oklahoma City. He and Martha moved into a four-bedroom home there in May 1994. Martha appreciated the big, airy bedroom with seven windows. She liked to see the sunset, Glen said. The house also has plenty of room to accommodate Glen’s children, six grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren when they come to visit.
Every morning from 5:00 to 6:00, when the weather is good, Glen meets friends at the local café for breakfast. And every afternoon he heads to a pizza joint, where a group of about 14 men and women gather daily. The group has been meeting for 20 years.
When Glen reflects on his eventful life, he sees only good fortune.
“I do not know how one man could be so lucky as to have the best wife in the world, three children who grew to maturity without problems, six grandchildren who likewise were no problem to their parents, and 12 great-grandchildren who we hope will be as good, and with proper training, I am sure they will be good citizens.”
Spoken like a true statesman.
Editor’s note: Glen R. Key passed away on April 25, 2007, at the age of 90.
More info links:
Glen Key’s greatest trip