September 1, 1939 – December 2, 2017

Wilford Keith French, 78, of Newton, Illinois, passed away at 5:45 a.m., Saturday, December 2, 2017, at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois.

Funeral mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, December 9, 2017, at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Newton, Illinois, with Fr. Dean Probst celebrating mass. Burial will be in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Newton, Illinois. Visitation will be held 5:00-8:00 p.m., Friday, December 8, 2017, at the church and 1 hour before the mass. In loving memory of Keith, memorials may be made to the St. Thomas Building Fund, Newton Athletic Boosters or Jasper County Cancer Fund. Arrangements are under the care of the Meyer Funeral Home in Newton, Illinois. The obituary can be viewed and condolences left at

Keith was born on September 1, 1939, in Bogota, Illinois, the son of Wilford and Maxine (Cook) French. He married the catch of his life, Bonnie Leister, on August 20, 1960, in Olney, Illinois.

Keith graduated from Newton Community High School in 1957. Over the course of his lifetime, he worked at E.R. Moore and Newton Power Plant, from which he retired from in 2002. Keith was a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Newton. He was an avid fisherman with quite the lure collection. For years he could be found on his boat at the lake. However, he was just as happy fishing with grandchildren alongside the edge of a pond. Another passion of his was the St. Louis Cardinals. He always knew the latest developments, who was going to be pitching, the score of last night’s game, but was known to turn them off when they made him mad. Keith always enjoyed his many road trips with his buddy, Lee Webb. Although he loved fishing, the Cardinals, and his scenic car rides, his greatest passion was his love for his family. Keith and Bonnie loved to travel. They enjoyed many winters together in the Texas sun and made wonderful lifelong friends. He was always there for his family and loved them unconditionally. Keith enjoyed watching his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in whatever activity they were involved in even during the last few years when he didn’t feel the best. He was determined to be there in any way he could. The family always enjoyed his famous dill pickles, and are thankful he “may” have shared his recipe with a chosen few. Keith was loved and respected by his family and friends, and will be greatly missed.

Keith is survived by his wife of 57 years, Bonnie; children, Christine (Kent) Klier, Lindsay (Julie) French and Laura (Dan) Songer, all of Newton; grandchildren, Brooke (Adam) Wolf, Jarrod (Jenna) Klier, Ryan (Whitney) Klier, Derek (Kelsie) French, Adam French (Kerstine Kerner), Kelsie Songer, Jessica Songer (Brian Burton) and Chase Songer (Jordan Hummel); great-grandchildren, Parker, Drake and Mabry Wolf; Delaney, Carson, McKenna and Madilyn Klier; Landry and Easton Klier; Rozlynn and Hudson French; Lillian Green and Bryar French; brother, Phil (Kim) French.

Keith was preceded in death by his parents, step-father Merle Watson, sister Marlene Summerfield and nephew Greg French.