Three U.S. Presidents Make Mark In Oklahoma Rocking Chair
POTEAU, Oklahoma - On President's Day we give a salute to the men who've held the office. But for one family, they especially salute the three who found brief comfort from the rigors of the world's toughest job in the embrace of an Oklahoma rocking chair.
John Kennedy used a rocking chair in the Oval Office. He had a bad back, and the padded rocker provided some comfort.
It became a trademark of his. So in 1961, when the President stopped in Poteau for a visit to Senator Robert Kerr's, Ker-Mac Ranch, to watch an Angus cattle auction, Louise Keesee planted her grandmother's upholstered oak rocker on the dais.
"My mother knew that he had a bad back and sat in a rocking chair all the time and said 'can he sit in our rocking chair,' and they said, 'sure,'" said Nancy Keesee-Walter.
Sisters Nancy Kazee-Walter and Janie Kazee-Word grew up in the ranching business. In the 1960's, home was the 75,000 acre Ker-Mac Ranch where their father, Dr. Paul Keesee, was the veterinarian.
At the time, 16-year old Nancy got all dressed up and paraded some prize Angus steers in front of the President.
"He acted like he enjoyed it a lot and he laughed and made comments about the chair and said, 'Oh, I see somebody was thinking ahead about my needs,' I mean he made a comment about it, I don't exactly remember the words," Keesee-Word said.
From that day forward, Louise Keesee had given herself a new challenge; to get as many Presidents as she could to sit in the rocking chair.
President Lyndon Johnson made his first trip to the Ker-Mac Ranch a year after Kennedy died, but there are no pictures of his visit.
"There was no press, there was nothing. He just came with his foreman of his ranch from Texas to buy bulls, bought hundreds of Angus bulls from us," Keesee-Walter
And their mother made sure the deals went down with the soon-to-be President sitting in the family rocking chair.
The years went by; the girls married and moved away, started careers and families. And in 1979, Nancy was a ranch wife in the little Beckham County town of Elk City.
Campaigning there four years earlier, Jimmy Carter promised if the townspeople would help elect him, he'd come back as President.
And in March, 1979, he kept his promise.
"I happened to be the chairman of the welcoming committee, so I got his room all ready and put one chair in there," Kessee-Walter said.
To this day, President Carter calls his town hall meeting in Elk City the best of his Presidency. For the Keesee's, it meant three Presidential posteriors had perched in their chair.
So they were quite confident when they carried it to a taping of PBS's "Antiques Road Show."
"Well, we just thought we had the most fabulous chair in the world, ‘we're not interested.' We said, 'But do you understand three presidents have sat in it?' So we took our chair and left," Kessee-Walter said.
"Said it was a nice little family story," Kessee-Walter said.
Not having photographic proof of two-of-the-three Presidents sitting in their chair apparently did them in. But the sisters are fine with that.
They've stored away lifelong stories from a chair they cherish. It's why, for a year at-a-time, they swap it between themselves and a brother who lives in Colorado.
It reminds them of a simpler time; of autumn days and friends long gone, of the times history called; and pulled up a chair.