Remembering Peter Keane

Peter Keane died earlier this month, a few days short of his 104th birthday.

That’s remarkable — unless you’re part of his family.

His older sister, Helen Faith Keane Reichert — a resident of Westport and New York — died 2 years ago, a few weeks before turning 110.

Irving Kahn — Peter’s older brother (who never changed his family name) — is 108. He’s still chairman of Kahn Brothers, a New York investment firm.

Peter’s sister Lee died 2 years ago, shortly before her 102nd birthday.

Back in the day, Peter studied ornithology at Cornell University. He graduated in 1932.

Peter Keane

Peter Keane

He became a photographer, working as an assistant cameraman in Hollywood when both he and Technicolor were young. He was on the set of “The Wizard of Oz” when Judy Garland sang “Over the Rainbow,” and watched the burning of Atlanta in “Gone With the Wind.”

Peter told his wife Elisabeth that 2 pipes were used for the fire scenes. One was filled with fuel, the other with water. When a burn scene was to be shot, the fuel line was turned on and the fire set. When action was stopped, the water line was opened.

Peter also accompanied Margaret Bourke-White, when she took her iconic photos of the Chrysler Building gargoyles. He shot his own photos there too — but later gave them away.

While working for photographer Nickolas Muray, Peter was asked to take a head shot for a young woman on her way to Hollywood. Again, Peter did not save the photos of the budding actress — a woman named Lucille Ball.

During World War II Peter served in the Pacific, as a captain in director Frank Capra’s Army Signal Corps.

He returned to New York to work in the field of video technology, with companies like Sony and HBO. He was a Life Fellow of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

Peter is survived by his wife Elisabeth, brother Irving, children Karin and Marc, and 2 grandchildren. His 1st wife, Lucille Fouillet, predeceased him.

Contributions in Peter’s name may be made to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Rd., Ithaca, NY 14850; click here to donate online.

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