Biography:

Benjamin “Joe” Keeper had his best Olympic finish of fourth in the 10,000m final at Stockholm 1912 where 15 men qualified for the final (11 started and only five finished, a consequence of the hot sun and blistering pace). In the Stockholm 5000m, Keeper qualified with 15:28.9 minutes out of the first round but did not finish the final and while entered in the marathon, Keeper did not start it.

 

A member of the Norway House Cree First Nation, Keeper started long distance running while attending the Brandon Indian Residential School, and began racing in 1909. By 1910 he had joined the North End Amateur Athletic Club, set the Canadian 10 mile record of 54:50 in 1911 in Fort William, and by 1912, he won the 10,000m at the Canadian Olympic Trials.

Keeper’s running career ended in 1916 when he joined the Canadian Army. Serving in France for two years during World War I as a dispatch carrier for the 107th Pioneer Battalion, he earned three medals for his service including the Military Medal for Bravery in 1917. He remained active competing at the 1919 Inter-Allied Games joining Tom Longboat to win the cross country championships near Vimy Ridge. After the war, Keeper returned to Manitoba and became a carpenter and employee of Hudson’s Bay Company until his retirement in 1951. He married Christina McLeod in 1926 and had four sons and three daughters. His son Joseph I was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his work in First Nations community development and his granddaughter Tina served two years as a Canadian Member of Parliament.

Keeper passed away in Winnipeg in 1971. The Joe Keeper Memorial Run (now the Joe Keeper – Angela Chalmers Celebration Run) is held each spring by the Manitoba Runners’ Association, and The Norway House Cree Nation holds memorial races in his name. He was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1977, Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and the Tribune Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, Manitoba Runners Halls of Fame in 2006 and Canada’s Sports of Fame in 2015.