Whether building a go-cart for his five children or designing art for an Alcoa advertisement, Albert H. Kiefer was a perfectionist.
His work took him from flying in a helicopter under the Brooklyn Bridge and around the skyscrapers of Wall Street to visiting astronauts in Houston, and many places in between. Through it all, he made sure to secure the best photographers, the best artists, the best type house and the best printer to ensure that he offered the best product to his many corporate clients, said his wife, Catherine Rudy Kiefer.
"He was always very careful and he didn't stop until he was satisfied that he had the best of everything, and it was the same at home," Mrs. Kiefer, 84, said with a laugh.
Mr. Kiefer, of Oakland, died Sept. 25. He was 87.
Born March 16, 1926, in Milwaukee, Mr. Kiefer was the son of Albert Jacob and Cora Clasen Kiefer. One of four children, he spent most of grade school and all of high school in Appleton, Wis., after his family moved north. An excellent student and artist, Mr. Kiefer was elected to the National Honor Society before graduating in 1944. Having enlisted in the Navy at the end of the first semester of college, Mr. Kiefer was allowed to finish his second semester "and then they all marched off to war," his wife said.
Rather than shipping overseas, however, Mr. Kiefer was assigned to a large naval hospital at Farragut Naval Training Station in Idaho, where he worked as a pharmacist's mate picking up wounded Marines and taking them back to the base for care. After they were sufficiently recovered to transfer to a hospital near home, Mr. Kiefer was among the young men assigned to ride with them on the trains home.
"They had their medicine with them and a doctor with them and all these boys, and it was just like a cattle car," Mrs. Kiefer said. "They would stop along the way and take out whoever was going home and it was really hard on these boys -- they weren't men, they were only 18."
After his discharge in 1946, Mr. Kiefer enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University's School of Fine Arts as a painting and design student, and his performance and leadership earned him membership in the honoraries Omicron Delta Kappa and Pi Delta Epsilon. He also was a member of the Delta Upsilon social fraternity.
After graduation in 1950, Mr. Kiefer began working at Eli Lilly Co. in Indianapolis but was recalled to the Navy for the Korean War. He worked on display posters and other publicity for the Navy and was not called out of the country.
Before he began his second round of service, however, Mr. Kiefer married his wife in 1951 and the couple had their first baby, Michael, in 1952. Discharged after a year, Mr. Kiefer resumed his work at Eli Lilly and became the art director of Physicians's Bulletin and Tile and Till, which included covering the first manufacture of the Salk polio vaccine.
From Indianapolis, Mr. Kiefer returned to Pittsburgh to work as assistant to the vice president of sales at Herbick & Held Printing Co. and in 1956 was hired as an art director by Fuller, Smith and Ross Advertising Agency in Cleveland. Within a year, the company opened an office in Pittsburgh and in 1957 asked him to return there because he knew the city so well.
Along the way, the Kiefers had four more children and settled in Point Breeze next to Frick Park. Mr. Kiefer designed and built a silver go-cart they used to careen down the hill in races with friends.
"They always said they had the best go-cart in the neighborhood," Mrs. Kiefer said. "They won every race."
At Fuller, Smith and Ross, which later became Della Femina, Mr. Kiefer served many of the city's biggest corporate accounts, including Alcoa, Alcoa Building Products, H.H. Robertson Co., Mellon Bank, Union National Bank, Equibank, Westinghouse and a range of other industrial, business and consumer clients, first as ad director and later as vice president and executive art director.
Even after retirement in 1988, Mr. Kiefer was still brainstorming about the world and the advertising he saw around him.
"He was always thinking of new and different things, or ways he would have done an ad he'd thought up," Mrs. Kiefer said. "He was always thinking."
Mr. Kiefer is survived by his wife and children, Michael of Bryn Mawr, Pa.; Matthew of Lawrenceville, N.J.; Kelly Ann Borgeson of Albuquerque, N.M.; Samuel of Wayland, Mass.; and Daniel of Murrysville.
A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today in St. Paul Cathedral, Oakland.
Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1719.