Earl D. Keller
September 2, 1934 – October 26, 2018
Earl D. Keller was born on September 2, 1934 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota to Earl and Rosa Keller. After a brief battle with lung cancer, he passed away on October 26, 2018 at the age of 84 at Highline Medical Center in Burien, Washington, surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by Ruth, his wife of 57 years; children, Monica and Mark; their spouses Daniel and Wendy; and six grandchildren, Svea and Ella Voltz; Eva, Jonas, Annika, and Lisel Keller. He is also survived by his sisters, Evelyn Kenyon, Joyce Sturtz, and Barbara Maass. He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Beverly Romanoff.
The Keller family moved from Fergus Falls, Minnesota to Algona, Washington in 1943. In high school, Earl’s favorite hobby was modifying his 1936 Ford. He liked it fast and loud and received multiple tickets for violating sound ordinances. Due to drag racing and a few crashes, he rebuilt it more than once. While busy with school and cars, he also worked part-time at Smith Brothers Dairy, the company he later returned to and retired from. Upon graduation from Auburn High School in 1952, he attended the University of Washington until he was drafted. He proudly served in the U.S. Army’s Security Agency in Kawasaki, Japan as a teletype interceptor. When he returned home, he continued his service in the Army Reserves.
He and Ruth met on a blind date, and they were married in 1961. On weekends, they enjoyed dancing during evenings out with friends. The dance lessons that Earl took at Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio paid off, and Ruth loved how he smoothly led her across the dance floor. Not long after they were married, they traveled to Sweden to meet Ruth’s family. Earl eagerly took Swedish language classes in order to communicate with his three new brothers-in-law, resulting in life-long friendships and many visits. On one of their early trips, Earl and Ruth purchased a Volvo P1800 and traveled throughout Sweden for a month before shipping it home. Earl enjoyed driving such a unique car. His penchant for vehicles next led him to airplanes. He obtained his private pilot’s license and purchased a small, single-engine Aeronca which he relished piloting for many years.
Earl was the Sales Manager of Smith Brothers Dairy for most of his career. One of the benefits was his ability to provide an endless supply of ice cream bars, popsicles, and chocolate milk to Monica and Mark and the neighborhood kids. In addition to working for the dairy, he co-owned a heating, sheet metal and oil company for almost ten years. At the same time, he and Ruth also purchased, renovated and managed multiple rental homes.
Fishing and camping excursions with friends provided balance to the heavy work schedule. Traveling in a small, loosely sealed, 8-foot camper created the opportunity for fond memories and great stories of damp nights and dust-filled days. The family also skied together and spent many weekends at their cabin in Packwood skiing White Pass. Later, with their cross-country ski friends, they gathered annually in Mazama. Exercise, cooking together, dancing, happy hour and games filled their days, not necessarily in that order.
After retiring in 2000, Earl decided it would be fun to own a boat and spent many weekends cruising around Puget Sound. The warmth of the sun also drew him to travel from his lawn chair on the deck to some of his favorite places in Mexico, Hawaii and Arizona. These trips created many happy memories with family and friends.
Never one to remain idle, he always found projects, big and small, to keep him busy. As one of his largest post-retirement endeavors, he joined with Merrill, Wendy’s father, to help Mark and Wendy build their home in Des Moines. His attention to detail, knowledge, and careful craftsmanship meant he could always be trusted to do any job right, no matter how long it might take. Around his neighborhood, he was the on-call handyman, ready and willing to fix and repair anything, from sprinklers to a leaky roof. For the school that Monica helped found, he lovingly built beautiful wooden furniture and toys for the early childhood classroom, all of which continue to be treasured today.
Earl cherished family time most of all, and his unconditional love will forever be remembered. Even though the grandchildren lived several hours away, Grandpa Earl didn’t let distance keep him from attending their performances and sporting events. His encouragement and support made each child feel special and that what they did mattered. Family gatherings, holiday meals, and games around the table brought him great joy. He was happiest when everyone was together. One of his favorite family vacations was a week-long Alaska cruise to celebrate his and Ruth’s 50th anniversary.
For over 50 years, Earl was a faithful member of Grace Lutheran Church.
Earl deeply impacted the lives of many, and he will be greatly missed.
In memory of Earl, donations can be made to Riverwood Community School, 146B Buena Vista Drive, Colville, WA 99114.