Thursday, July 2, 2015

Farewell Archie Kieffer

by Rachel Dworkin, archivist

Back when I first started working here, County Historian Archie Kieffer was the only man in an office full of women.  None of us ladies were locals so any time we had a question we just went down the hall to his office because he always knew the answer.  Archie was free with hugs and life advice too.  He called us his girls.  We called him our grandpa and we loved him.
Archie and his 'girls': Casey Lewis, Amy Wilson, Archie Kieffer, Rachel Dworkin, Kerry Lippincott & Peggy Malorzo

J. Arthur Kieffer (1921-2015) was born and raised in Elmira.  In his youth, Archie was a ladies’ man and dance hall Romeo who seriously considered a career as a pro-golfer before his father set him straight.  During World War II, he served first as a dog trainer on Long Island and then in as a tail gunner in the 459 Bomb Group in the U.S. Army Air Corp.  It was while he was serving on Long Island that he met his wife Sophie at a USO dance.  After the war, Archie worked for Streeter Associates as a mason foreman and then as superintendent of County Buildings and Grounds from 1966 to 1983.  We used to joke that there wasn’t anything built after 1950 that he hadn’t had a hand in.
Archie and his WWII B24 bomber crew.  Archie is the one posing front and center.
While construction was his work, history was his passion, or at least one of them (the other being dahlias).  He served as the chairman of the Chemung County Bicentennial Commission in 1976.  He became Chemung County Historian in 1991 and served until his retirement in 2013.  Archie was the author of The Junction Canal as well as his own autobiography.  He also penned dozens of lectures and articles in the Chemung Historical Journal.   
Archie as chairman of the Chemung County Bicentennial Commission, 1976
During his 94 years, Archie touched a lot of lives.  He served on the Chemung County Board of Supervisors and was actively involved in every club and association from the American Legion to the Veteran Historical Society.  He was the sort of man who made friends where ever he went.  Archie was my friend and I will miss him.

Archie and me


  1. Rachel, i am very proud of the article you did on Archie, I wish i had the opportunity to meet him and know him, I also would have enjoyed talking to him about historical things because he had such a passion for history and preserving our past as i do