Friday, April 11, 2008
A Great Man Passes Away
Meeting Keith, he did not strike you as a great man. He seemed rather ordinary, almost nondescript. As co-manager of the local Kroger, where he began working in high school, his job was not glamorous or adventurous. In many ways Keith seemed a most ordinary man and in many ways he was. In many ways he was far from ordinary.
Keith demonstrated his greatness in his dedication and commitment to his family, community and God. I got to know Keith when my daughter began playing basketball. Keith coached her for a couple of years. Keith also has a daughter in the same grade as my daughter and they became close friends.
Keith treated the girls with encouraging words and lots of smiles for their successes. I soon discovered he had also coached his son's and other daughter's sports teams. He had helped found a girls fast pitch softball league.
I also learned that Keith was much of the reason that Kroger permanently had a concession trailer parked in front during the warm months of the year for civic groups, charitable organizations, sports teams, youth groups, etc. to raise money by selling hamburgers and hot dogs. In Boy Scout meetings, during fund raising discussions, one of the first things to be said by someone was, "I'll talk to Keith at Krogers...."
Keith's first thoughts always seemed to be, "How can I help?"
At his visitation the evening before his funeral, I arrived at 5:45 PM. The line already stretched out of the church and down the block. My little girl, ex-wife and myself waited two hours to offer our meager sympathies to Keith's wife, three kids and other family members. Keith was only 49 years old, apparently dieing unexpectedly from complications from treatment for a brain tumor. The next day I heard it was well after 10:00 PM when the line finally ended.
Standing in line, I recognized many of the faces as employees at Kroger. Struck by the sadness and tears of those he supervised at work, I realized that Keith had touched many lives in the way he touched my daughter's. That even at work, he treated people in such a way that they loved him. The women standing in front of us had driven 50 miles from a Kroger Keith had helped open last year.
Inside the church a PowerPoint slide show displayed pictures of Keith, his family and the many activities in which he participated. A couple included my daughter. I felt honored. In many of the pictures, Keith stood in the background much as he did in life. For Keith it was never about him. He worked hard and spent hours helping others achieve their goals. He was happy to stand to the side and applaud their accomplishments.
Watching the pictures and listening to the eulogies at his church, where he was a deacon, it became increasingly obvious that Keith had helped many people this way, his children, other children, employees and co-workers and many others he never met.
Recognizing Keith's importance to their employees, Kroger closed their "open 24 hours a day" store for three hours in order that everyone could attend his funeral if they wished. Kroger also took out a full page ad in the local newspaper to honor Keith.
In this day when so many look to the government to make their lives better, I understand that we don't need better politicians, better laws, or whatever. We need more people like Keith. I hope and pray that Keith's family makes their way through this tragic time and continues to flourish and grow from the love he gave them. I also hope and pray that at least a few people feel about me when I die the way thousands feel about Keith.
Keith was a good friend to many. Thank you, Keith.
Money is everything, rather than the human part of the equation.
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