Life and Times of Keith Argow

Throughout the course of this project, my group and I recognized that one theme surfaced in each interview. Each retiree spoke about their families. Dr. Keith Argow spoke at length about his heritage and family life during different segments of the interview. He spoke about the meanings of his name, Keith Argow, and ancestors who had ties to forestry long before it became a recognized profession. Dr. Argow also addressed his family’s feelings toward his Forest Service career beginning with his parent’s apprehensions before college and ending with his wife’s opinions just before his retirement. I found Dr. Argow’s family discussions interesting because before, during, and after the interview he repeatedly told me about how blessed he was to be a member of the Forest Service and how everything always seemed to fall into place at the right times. It was interesting to reflect on these statement after he described his heritage and career after the Forest Service.

Dr. Argow insists that he was destined to be a member of the Forest Service because of his heritage. Dr. Argow’s parents were not too keen on the idea of him becoming a forester, wanting him to “make something out of (his) life.” He defended is ambitions by declaring that his name alone means that he is a forester and that his “roots in forestry” are in his “blood.” He made his point by describing the meaning of his last name, Argow, which is Swiss. If the name is broken down by syllables A-R comes from the river Aar in Switzerland, which is a major drainage. G-O-W is Swiss for someone living in the watershed of the river Aar, “so there you get an Argow.” Dr. Argow animatedly declared that his first name, Keith, is Celtic for “of the forest.” He finished this discussion by humorously asking me “Now, is there any chance that I wouldn’t be a forester?” Dr. Argow’s Swiss ancestors were also forest meisters who learned their work in Germany.

Dr. Argow left the Forest Service after seventeen years. His main reason for leaving was because his wife wanted to live in one place. Throughout this Forest Service project, I have learned that the Forest Service can be demanding of its employees and sometimes take away from family life. The agency usually requires their employees to relocate about every three years. Most Forest Service families move around the country quite like military families. Dr. Argow’s wife, Mary Lou, grew up in a small town in North Carolina and was a multigenerational citizen of the area; she was not accustomed to frequent relocation. Dr. Argow says that her desire to live in one place to raise their children was part of the reason he left the Forest Service when he did.

Even though Dr. Argow left the Forest Service after seventeen years he has great “pride” in his association claiming to “still wear the green t-shirt” everyday. He praised the Forest Service throughout the interview because of the respectful way the agency treated him during his seventeen years.  Dr. Argow spoke very fondly of his time with the Forest Service and it is obvious that the agency has meant very much to him throughout his life. Dr. Argow  remains active in land conservation and has done so since his retirement, he still considers himself a forester. He personally owns roughly 6,000 acres of land throughout the nation and is a steady voice for private land owners in Washington D.C. Dr. Argow is also the publisher of two magazines and current president of the National Woodland Owners association, though he has served with numerous other organization over the last thirty years.

– Susan