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Katherine Keating

Katherine Keating

Alumna recognized for her pioneering service in the Navy

Ret. Captain Katherine “Kay” Keating, BS ’48, of Beulah, Colo., was inducted into the 2008 Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame on March 11, in honor of her significant contributions helping elevate the status of women veterans.

Keating, who grew up in Pueblo, Colo., was attending the School of Pharmacy when World War II began. She enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and was among the first women inducted into the WAVES, the women’s branch of the Navy at the time. Because she could type, Keating was trained to be a radio operator and served in Hawaii listening to radio signals and typing code translations. “There was a war on. It was my duty to serve,” she said.

After the war, she returned to pharmacy school, graduating in 1948. When she was offered the chance to join the reserves, Keating transferred to the Navy’s Medical Service Corps to become the Navy’s first woman pharmacist and was assigned to head up the Navy’s pharmacist technicians’ school. She served during three wars, becoming the first woman to rise from the rank of seaman to captain.

One of her assignments in the Navy was being assigned to a hospital ship off Korea transporting wounded soldiers to U.S. military hospitals in Japan. Assigned to the USS Haven, Keating became one of the first women officers to relieve a man at sea. In 1953, when the USS Haven was chosen to host a prisoner of war exchange, United Nations officials chose Keating to be an official witness.

In 1954, her ship carried wounded French paratroopers home from Vietnam after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu. During the Vietnam War, she worked in U.S. Naval hospitals in Japan, helping treat the wounded American soldiers.

After serving 30 years in the Navy, Keating retired in 1972, returning to her Colorado home in Beulah.

In the 1990s, she answered the call to duty again when a group of women veterans began working to establish the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington, D.C. Located at Arlington National Cemetery, the memorial was dedicated in 1997 and honors women who have served or are serving with the U.S. Armed Forces starting with the American Revolution.