Dorothy was born on February 9th, 1918. She was 98 years, 6 months, and 1 day old when she left us, and in those 98 years she truly touched a lot of lives. She served as an inspiration to her family by being the first to continue beyond the 8th grade. Not only did she graduate high school, she even attended and graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Rural Education. She was an elementary classroom and music teacher for 20 years. I have absolutely no doubt that in those 20 years, she instilled a love of learning in numerous children!
Dorothy Keller married Walt Keller of McNabb, Illinois, and started her greatest legacy: her family.
Dorothy and Walt had 4 children: Chuck, Julie, Randy, and Marty. In them, Dorothy instilled a love of learning and, generally, a love of music. In fact, three of the four even went on to earn college degrees with majors in education while the fourth carried on the family farm. Those four children went on to bring nine babies into the world, including Mr. Keller.
Walt passed away in 1988, and from what I have gathered, Dorothy was a supportive, traditional farm wife to him. In fact, that’s why one of Mr. Keller’s mom’s favorite stories about Dorothy is so striking. One afternoon, Walt came in looking for his lunch. He was surprised that Dorothy not only didn’t have lunch for him, she hadn’t even started it! She informed him that she was busy playing with Mr. Keller (okay, she may have used his first name when she referred to him), and he would have to make his own lunch that day.
Dorothy and Mr. Keller had an incredible bond. Not only did he spend hours at the family farm where Dorothy always lived, but she actually watched him while Mr. Keller’s parents worked. This tiny matriarch spent hours sitting in a hot farm truck while Mr. Keller pretended to drive it down the road. I can just hear him “vrooming” along while she indulgently watched. She even wore out the knees of her pants sitting on the floor with Mr. Keller playing trucks and tractors. Later, they watched Wheel of Fortune together, enjoyed reading the newspaper and sharing news of what was happening in town.
In the time that I knew her, Dorothy’s life revolved around family. She loved living on the family farm with one son working the farm and another living just across the street. She was surrounded by family, and I think, was well aware of how loved she was. Dorothy was the epitome of a family matriarch.
I met Dorothy as she was becoming a great-grandmother. She adored each new great-grandbaby. You could just see it in her face as she held each one for the first time. I know that Mr. Keller and I feel incredibly fortunate that our children were able to spend as much time with Dorothy as they did. I just pray that both of them carry a few memories of her with them, always. She certainly loved and cared for them! She would just sit and watch them play. When BK was little, she would even get on the floor and play trucks and tractors with him just as she did his daddy.
Dorothy was wise, gracious, and feisty all the way to the end. I’m 100% positive that we all have a Dorothy Story that we will hold close. In fact, I have several! The first is from the very first time we met. Mr. Keller had warned me that she could take some time to warm up to people who were dating members of her family. She was a little bit on the protective side, I suppose. Regardless, she surprised him when she declared that she “liked [me]. [I] was her height!” I’ll also always carry with me how happy she was to be included in any get togethers at the Keller Tinker Farm. She truly just loved to spend time with us and to be included in our lives. I also loved her optimism! Until the last year of her life, she constantly spoke of the future. She was always planning for next year! Keep in mind that she was already 86 when I had the pleasure of meeting her!
God gave us Dorothy for 98 great years. She was able to live on the farm until nearly the very end, and then, was fortunate enough to be able to move into Cabin Livin’, an assisted living facility just a few miles away from the farm. She really spent the majority of her years in great health, and she certainly maintained 100% of her mental faculties. I was constantly amazed at her observations.
Selfishly, I wish we could have had Dorothy for a few more years. BK and MK could have benefited so much from spending more time with her, and I could have, as well.
Dorothy Keller left a strong legacy of love, music, and learning that will absolutely be carried on through her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We miss her today and will continue to, but while we are sad that she’s no longer here with us, we can be confident that she’s in a better place with God and Our Savior.