Dr. Kenneth Keller died peacefully at home in Centennial, Colorado on Sunday August 13, 2023 at the age of 83. Loved by all who knew him, Ken was kind, astute, courageous and a lover of corny jokes. He lived gracefully with Parkinson’s Disease for 27 years.
Ken was born (May 25, 1940) and grew up in LaPorte, Indiana. After high school, Ken entered the Crosier Order in 1958 and was ordained as a Catholic priest in June 1968. He earned two BA’s (Philosophy and Theology) at St. Francis College and a MA and Phd in Anthropology from the University of Colorado as a student of Dr. Gotfried Lang. Between his Master’s and PhD, Ken spent two years working with the Asmat in Irian Jaya, Indonesia.
After completing his PhD research in Cultural Anthropology, he began his career teaching Anthropology at Metro State University of Denver. Dr. Keller served the University from the 1970’s until his retirement in 2008. During his tenure, in addition to teaching, he chaired the Department of Sociology/Anthropology and served as Associate Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Science. While at the college, he helped found the Family Literacy Center, turn the Social Work program into a department, and helped build bridges with China through a Academic Scholars Exchange Program, teaching at the Guangxi Normal University in Guilin. Of course he worked with Anthropology and Sociology students, but he also worked closely with nursing students, students seeking teacher licensure, social work students and their respective departments. His ability to empathize and make people feel comfortable and seen brought diverse groups together to meet a common goal. In recognition of his service to students, colleagues and Metro, he was named an Outstanding Faculty Award and was awarded Emeritus Professor of Anthropology after his retirement.
What none of these professional accomplishments capture is his deep dedication to family and friends. Ken married Lyla, the love of his life, 51 years ago (never fear, dear reader, there was a laicization in there). They were true partners at a time when that was unusual, with Ken doing most of the cooking and his half of the parenting. His daughter, Cathy was the apple of his eye. He loved being very involved in her life. Whether it was teaching her to throw a softball, driving her to swim practice at 5am, taking care of her horse while she was at college, discussing philosophy, or giving her professional advice she knew her father was always around, always loving, always gentle and kind.
Ken loved his grandchildren and would play games, trains and read to them from the time they were born. Seeing them grow up into interesting people was one of his life’s great delights. Ken formed deep, life-long friendships with many people, like the Hatfields and other members of the “Prayer Group,” adopting each other as extended family. He even took in Cathy’s college roommate as an extra daughter because you could never have too much family. Many people recently have told us how often he pulled them aside at events to hear detailed updates on their lives. He thoroughly enjoyed singing in the choir at 10;30 Catholic Community.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Donald A. and Marie (Herzog) Keller, his brother Ron Keller, and other members of his extended family. He is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Lyla K. (Mellor) Keller, and his daughter Catherine M. Keller, son-in-law Ben Edmonds, and 3 grandchildren, Owen, Marshall and Grant Edmonds, many nieces and nephews, and a circle of close friends.
If you would like to make a donation in his memory, please direct it to Metro State University of Denver https://www.msudenver.edu/giving/makeagift/ken-keller-memorial/ or the Parkinson Association of the Rockies parkinsonrockies.org. The family would like to establish an endowed scholarship at Metro that would last in perpetuity if donations reach $25,000. If the total reaches a lesser amount, several scholarships will be awarded in the next scholarship cycle or two. Please note in honor of Ken Keller in the comments section for your donation to be applied to the scholarship fund.
Ken will be greatly missed by family, friends, students and colleagues. If you are among those, please join us for a celebration of Ken’s life.
Date: Saturday August 26, 2023
Location: Ten-Thirty Catholic Community/Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church (1100 Fillmore St, Denver, CO 80206)
Reception to follow.