Keller. A name, that when heard in this area, brings to mind some great men and women. A name that represents honor, pride, hard work, compassion, serving others, history, love, faithfulness, and many other positive attributes, but most of all religious, God fearing men and women. A family that served their country, worked with their hands, had hearts of gold, and would go out of their way to help anyone in need. My papaw Jess and his brothers, Carl, Edlen, and I include Alfred because he was always Uncle Alfred to me were men of great admiration and respect. Knowing my grandfather, I know he would want this day to be a celebration of the legacy that his entire family leaves behind. I am sure if we were to ask everyone to raise their hand if one of these men had helped build their home, laid tile in their house, chopped wood for you to have in the winter, or done any other gracious tasks that nearly everyone would have a memory to share. All of these men were highly respected for the amazing work they did and their reputations for being trustworthy, thorough, meticulous, and always doing the right thing spread throughout this region. I am proud to be a part of this family and to be a grandson to one of the greatest men I will ever know. While I could speak for days about all of the Keller men and women, I want to honor my Papaw Jess by sharing with you some of the wonderful memories that my family and I will cherish forever.
The house on 5th street
We all have amazing memories of the house on 5th street. Breaking beans to can, shucking corn, Easter egg hunts, pictures of us all stacked up on the front porch steps, the old turn dial tv in the living room, taking naps, the apple tree, the strawberry patch, the old barn with hay stacked up top where papaw was almost killed by bumble bees! The big tub in the field that papaw would tell me he gave the cows baths in, the garden and the watermelons. I hope I wasn’t the only one to feel this way, but I always thought the basement was haunted as a kid. I would be scared to death to go down there if someone wasn’t with me. And then there was the family room that was off limits except at Christmas. And I’m sure everyone remembers the green bathroom. My love for mamaw and papaw started at the house on 5th street. If mom was going downtown she would have to bypass 5th street cause she knew if she took me by there that I was going to have an absolute fit if she didn’t stop. If she took 5th street by mistake she would get clever and right before we got yell out, “Justin, look at all those little puppies over there!” “Where mom, where! I don’t see them”…as she successfully distracted me. Mom would tell me that I would be grasping and hanging onto my mamaws feet as papaw carried me to the car, threw me in, and they’d have to lock the door…and I’m not kidding. The house on 5th street has so many memories that all of us grandkids cherish.
Oh how we loved to hear, “Knock the cover off that thing!!” Papaw tried to make it to every game he could. From Shawn and Todd’s days all the way to Andrew’s! Then there were watching the Cat’s play together. Basketball, football, and papaw loved to watch the women’s basketball too! As Cats fans, we all know how our blood pressure can fluctuate, but you better be ready to take it to a whole other level if you were watching it with Papaw Jess. One minute the volume would be blaring and then the next minute we’d have to watch it on mute for a while to calm everybody down. Papaw loved watching the Cats with us grandkids.
I thought papaw was famous the first time I saw his picture on a record album for The Christianairs. Papaw had a beautiful bass voice and if you ever got to stand in front or near papaw at church, I’m sure you remember him belting out the base line of any hymn we sang. I can remember standing by him, trying to mimick his voice. Everyone would be singing the melody and me and papaw would be chiming in with the bass. I always loved hearing him sing.
We all have our special memories of Edisto with mamaw and Papaw. Sharks teeth hunting, petrified wood, any fossil that we found we were taking it to papaw to find out what it was. “That’s a mastodon tooth”, he’d say! Washing our feet in the tray before we were allowed to go inside. Playing double solitaire with the same deck of cards for years. I’m sure everyone remembers the ones with the birds on them. Papaw hauling the moped down and him or mamaw riding to Piggly Wiggly with the little basket full of groceries. Edisto is a special place for all of us that every time we go, we will always think of mamaw and papaw. A quick short version story about Papaw’s motor home. They sold it about 10 years ago and I was devastated when I found out. I got the phone number of the man that bought it and I called him and begged him to sell it back to me. I called the guy every 3-4 months for over 2 years to make sure he still had it and to remind him that I wanted it back. All of the family would agree that Papaw’s motorhome was a part of the family. Finally, the man called me back and said he was moving and if I wanted it back that he would sell it to me. I was so excited. I buffed and cleaned on that camper for almost a week and had it shining like brand new. The look on papaws face when I brought it over to the house to show him, I will never forget. He was smiling from ear to ear and mamaw was inside gathering up the sheets, blankets, silverware, cards and everything else that they kept in there.
We all have amazing memories that we will cherish forever of our time with Papaw Jess. I’m sure we could all talk for days about something we learned from him or something he did for us. How he always made sure to be at any special event we had, whether it was in Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, or anywhere else. I want to share a few personal things of what my papaw meant to me. He was a man that instilled confidence in me. I was privileged to get to do a lot of things with my grandfather. He let me tag along and help with anything I wanted. I helped him lay tile. At first he would mark em and I’d cut em, but then later he had enough confidence in me to let me do it all in one of the bathrooms in mom and dads house. I helped him wire up lights and install new carpet at Martins Apartments. The first time I ever drove a truck, I was 9 years old back in Swiss Colony and he threw me the keys. I helped him under the hood of the pickup truck. He showed me how to take a carburetor off the lawn mower and clean it. Which led me to taking a fourwheeler apart at 12 years old and figuring out how to get it running. We hung Martin boxes. When I was 16, he would toss me the keys of his pickup truck to haul my fourwheeler anywhere I wanted to go. And even when I forgot to strap it down real good and hit the brakes and the fourwheeler rolled up and put a huge dent in the pickup bed, he never scolded me. He just showed me how to fix it. We wired up a CB radio in the old camper. We took trips to Atlanta to pick up carpet and always stopped at The Dinner Bell to eat in Sweetwater on our way home. We spent many hours just sitting in the living room talking. We would talk about his love for mamaw and he would tell me about how mamaw rode a train out to meet him and they got married. And if papaw ever got out of line, I can still hear mamaw say, “Now Jesse…” as she would straighten him out. Their love for one another was a model for what a relationship should be. Not perfect, they had their spouts, but unbelievable love and respect for one another that I hope to imitate as I grow old with my wife. He listened to me when I shared my troubles, whether it was about work or about life in general. He counseled me. He gave me great advice. He was a mentor. A man that was strong in his faith and love for our savior Jesus Christ. He helped me to focus on the things that matter even though I was just like him and I usually let the small things get me aggravated the most. He taught me to have confidence because he had confidence in me. I believed he could do anything and I think he believed that about me too. That’s why I’ve had confidence in myself over the years to be able to accomplish things that I didn’t think I could do at first. He always knew how to build my confidence that I could handle it, that I could figure it out, that I could accomplish anything that was in front of me. It’s because of what a great man he was and how he showed me to believe in myself. I love my papaw Jess and I am so thankful that I got to spend the time with him that the Lord blessed me with.
To close today, I’ll go back to how I started. Knowing my Papaw Jess, I know he would want this day to be a celebration of the legacy that he leaves behind. 3 children, 12 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren and 2 on the way. 33 people that are direct descendants from Jesse and Wilma Keller. We would sometimes sit and talk about each family member and he would say that he didn’t know what he did to deserve such an amazing family. He awed in the fact that everyone of us love the Lord. Well, I know what he did to deserve such a legacy. He loved and followed the Lord Jesus Christ, he made sure that we knew that about him, and he showed us his love by being the best husband, dad, papaw, and great-grandpa that all of us could have ever hoped for. We love you Papaw Jess! Your legacy will live on in each of us!