We lost Kelly on a dreary April day. Kelly Thomas Keeler passed from a pulmonary embolism at his home in Helena on April 3rd, 2019.
Kelly was born on September 13th, 1963 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Havre, Montana. He was the second son of Graham and Jeannie Keeler. In 1965, the family moved to Helena. Kelly’s early years were spent in the 6th Ward area on Walnut Street. In 1967, the family moved into their Ewing Street home. He grew up on Ewing Street. Several families created life-long friendships and the neighborhood was teeming with kids. Kelly always felt fortunate to have a great childhood and never forgot his friends.
Kelly married Nona (Edwards) Keeler in 1992. They had a daughter, Kaylee. They later divorced.
Kelly was natural at sports. He excelled at baseball and football. His early coaches: Jens Jenson and Bill Rook instilled in him a fierce competitive spirit that would later inspire his ability to coach some great girls’ softball teams.
Kelly, early on was industrious. In the early 1970’s high school students did something they called, “cruising the drag”. Basically, students spent Friday and Saturday nights driving up and down Helena Avenue, some drinking beer. Kelly had the idea that there were enough empty beer cans to cash in on. He was right.
His first real job was janitorial work at the Ice Cream Parlor. Ed McHugh hired Kelly to clean the restaurant. He would continue to work there and do every duty possible. He enjoyed cooking the most.
That love of cooking led him to pursue a quest to learn the finer skills of being a chef. He was a head cook at the Black Angus restaurant for several years. He would later load up his La Mans Pontiac, head out to Seattle and land a sous chef position at a restaurant in Green Lake. After the restaurant closed, Kelly found another profession- plumbing.
The art of plumbing is something Kelly knew very well. He could take blue prints and create a plan that made sure plumbing did what it’s supposed to do. He also had, in his head, a rolodex of the right parts and techniques that avoided costly errors.
He worked for many years at MDM Plumbing Supply, and most recently at Power Townsend.
Kelly loved dogs and had a best friend most of his life. The family dog, Charlie. Bandit, definitely an original. Then there was Misty, a gift to Kaylee. Misty’s puppy, Tucker. Kelly was dog happy.
One day Kelly was invited to go sailing. OMG! Sailing became a weekend ritual. Sailboat races, overnighters, BBQ’s, the Canyon Ferry Yacht Club, he loved being called a river rat! One of his sailing buddies, Chris Pazder (1952-2009), and Kelly could be seen sailing the C-scow on the weekend races. Chances are they’re sailing right now.
If he wasn’t sailing, he was acting. Kaylee introduced the theatre bug to Kelly. Kaylee attended Grand street Theatre School, taking advantage of the scholarships. Grand street Theater and Kelly were inseparable. Whether it was play practice or stage building, he could be found hanging out backstage encouraging the actors to shine on stage. One of Kelly’s proudest moments was acting alongside his daughter in Fiddler on the Roof. Many actors remember his enthusiasm and versatility on stage. He loved theatre.
These are a few examples of how Kelly touched those who were lucky enough to spend time with him. Please attend the Memorial to share your story.
Kelly is preceded in death by his father, Graham (1933-2010). He is survived by his daughter, Kaylee; step-son Levi; Mother, Jeannie; Sisters, Colleen Peterson (Helena) and Cathie Pugh (Spotsylvania County, Virginia), and brothers, Kevin and Greg (Helena); Nieces, Tiffany, Lonnie, and Jackie; and nephews, R.J., Cody and Kenny; in addition 15 Great nieces and nephews. Kelly also leaves behind, 3 uncles, 4 aunts, and 11 cousins. And finally, scores of loving, supportive relatives. He will be missed at our family reunions.
The family would like to recognize Kelly’s adopted family; the crew and friends at the Loose Caboose. It was very clear they loved him like a brother. A special thanks to Darrell Pressentin, a true friend when you need one.
A sense of gratitude goes out to the Lewis & Clark Deputies and the assistant coroner, Tim Wong. Their professionalism calmed a grieving family.
A Memorial will be held at 1:00 p.m., Friday, April 26th, at the Anderson Stevenson Wilke Funeral Home, 3750 N. Montana Ave.
The family asks in lieu flowers, donations may be sent to the Grand street Theatre School, 325 Park Avenue, Helena, MT. 59601, or The Angel Fund, P.O. Box 7463, Helena MT. 59604. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Kelly.