Family, Church service set course to Congress

As a young deacon, Howard P. "Buck" McKeon pledged 50 cents a month for three years toward his branch's goal of building a meetinghouse. And during construction, he did his part by digging ditches and clearing away debris.

Now at 54 years old, he has the opportunity to serve in a much larger capacity - as a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was sworn in Jan. 5 as representative of the 25th Congressional District in California.

"I am a product of my upbringing and religious beliefs," said the new Repulican congressman, a member of the Solemint Ward, Los Angeles California Santa Clarita Stake. "I saw my mom and dad put other people first all the time. I learned from that. My ambition is to serve the people, to try to work with people and to help them with their problems.

"My philosophy is that when our country was formed, our forefathers didn't plan on professional politicians. I think they felt that people would work in their communities and then they would serve for a period of time in Washington," Brother McKeon added. "I've been active in my business, in my Church and in my community. Now I'm at a point in life to serve on a different level."

The oldest of five sons of Howard C. and Phyllis Waite McKeon, Brother McKeon learned to serve early in life. His father, who worked in the grocery business seven days a week, wasn't active in the Church until his oldest son was about 12 years old. The elder McKeon then closed up shop on Sundays, and later served as bishop after the branch became a ward.

"My dad and mom had to make sacrifices to be active in the Church, and they taught us about the sacrifices of their parents and grandparents," he related. "We had a very close family. As we got older, my brothers and I worked with Dad in the store. We just grew up that way - working together."

His mother was "tremendously supportive," he recalled. "Mom would remind me, 'Remember who you are and what you are.' I can recall playing basketball as a sophomore in high school. She would be there. She was always there and always interested. She was there smiling when I gave Church talks."

Growing up in a small banch of the Church In Tujunga, Calif., near Los Angeles, provided "great memories" for the new congressman. "We were very close. We didn't have very many young people. In high school, there were only a couple of Latter-day Saints. Because there were so few members, we all had chances to talk and to serve in leadership positions. Most of the young people I grew up with have stayed active in the Church."

Brother McKeon continued developing leadership skills while serving in the Spanish American Mission from 1958-61, during which he served as a district president and supervising elder. He also held several leadership positions in small branches. "When you get in the mission field, you have to rely on the Lord,: he pointed out. "You have a lot of faith-promoting experiences. It's a great place to develop and strengthen your testimony.

Soon after he returned from his mission, he traveled with his father to Salt Lake City for a general conference. While riding in an elevator in the Hotel Utah, he met Patiricia Cunz, then a student at BYU. The young returned missionary began dating her the fall of 1961 while both attended BYU. They were married Aug. 25, 1962, in the Los Angelos Temple.

They are the parents of six children: Tamara Morrison, 29; Howard DeVirl, 28; John Matthew, 26; Kimberly Kosorok, 23; David Owen, 19; who is currently in the Spain Bilbao Mission; and Tricia, 17. The McKeons have six grandchildren and one on the way.

Brother McKeon is co-owner of a family business, which consists of a chain of western wear stores. He began operating the first store in Canyon Country, Calif., about 18 miles north of Los Angeles, in 1963 with his father. In the early 1970s, his brothers joined in the business, which today includes 51 stores throughout California, Arizona and Nevada.

The 6-foot-1-inch, slim man with slightly graying hair is also chairman and founding director of Valencia National Bank in Valencia, Calif.

He told the Church News his success through the years is attributed to the support of his parents - who are now deceased, the gospel, and a desire to "live each day the best you can."

He also expressed gratitude for the example of those with whom he served in Church callings through the years. Brother McKeon has been a bishop, a counselor in a stake presidency and a seminary teacher. Today, he and his wife are temple preparation seminar instructors.

Brother McKeon also has a strong sense of community service. He has served on the board of directors of a chamber of commerce and of the Santa Clarita Valley Small Business Development Center, as chairman and director of a hospital, and as chairman and trustee of a school district. He also is on a district committee of the Boy Scouts, and was honorary chairman for a Red Cross campaign and for a Leukemia Society Celebrity Program.

It was while serving in the school district in the mid 1980s that he began to think about his education. He had completed two years in animal husbandry at BYU before his mission and about a year after. He was only a few classes short of a bachelor's degree. "I was on the school board and handed out diplomas but never could wear degree colors because I didn't have my degree," he recalled. Brothr McKeeon began attending California State University Northridge in Los Angeles and taking correspondence courses from BYU. In 1985 he received a degree in business production from BYU and graduated on the same day as one of his daughters and her husband.

Seeking public office seemed to be a "natural evolution" for Brother McKeon. After aerving on the school board, he was elected mayor of Santa Clarita in 1987. Then before the 1992 election, he found out the area in which he lived would be made a new Congressional district. he had been taught by his parents that if you complanin about something - such as government - do something about it. So he decided to run for Congress, and he won.

His first assignments in Congress are serving on the House committees for Public Works and Transportation, and Education and Labor. He will also serve on several sub-committees.

Sister McKeon said her husband's greatest strength is "he seems to be able to work with many different personalities and help them come to an agreement in problem-solving situations.

Brother McKeon has the support of his family - and believes strongly in family. "In the family, you learn about honesty, about being dependaple, about what your feelings are in regard to helping and loving your fellowman. You don't have to give talks about family values. You show that by how you live."


Following is a list Latter-day Saints serving in the 103rd congress from their respective states. Those with asteriks by their names were elected ffor the first tim in 1992:

American Samoa

Delegate Eni F. H. Faleomavaega (D)


Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R)

Rep. Wally Herger (R)

Rep. John T. Doolittle (R)

Rep. Ron Packard (R)


Rep. Michael D. Crapo (R)

New Hampshire

Rep. Dick Swett (D)


Sen. Harry M. Reid (D)


Rep. Ernest J. Istook (R)


Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R)

Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R)

Rep. James V. Hansen (R)

Rep. Bill Orton (D)

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed