If you weren’t able to make it to an Easter service this morning, that’s ok…my little girl sums it up in less than 60 seconds.
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!
There are men in this world that leave legacies and we are blessed to call this one Papaw Jess! This man is by far one of the greatest men I know. I realize now that he has taught me more about life than I’ve ever thanked him for.
Love. His love for my grandmother was and still is unbelievable. The stories he shared about their lives together made me realize what true love meant. How he cared for her, took care of her, enjoyed life with her. Their relationship was a testament to my life and he still shows that love to her today. Mamaw’s picture still sits on the coffee table and we talk about her often! Oh how I miss her, but I can only imagine how he misses her.
Joy. Oh the joy that you, Audrey, have brought into his life. I watch his eyes light up when you run to him. He smiles ear to ear when you play dolls with him or fix him fake coffee. He loves you. And he loves all his great grandchildren. The Lord has blessed him with a bunch of great grandkids.
Peace. Sometimes the peace that Papaw Jess has shown actually makes me mad. While he can definitely still get worked up when the ice maker is rusting, or the wildcats are getting beat, or a telemarketer calls, or the house isn’t hot enough…he is prepared for eternity. His peace knowing that when his last breath is taken that he’ll be with the Lord Jesus Christ speaks volumes. While I hope to keep him around forever, his faith has shown me peace knowing who holds the future. (And speaking of a rusted ice maker…we went by and seen him yesterday and at 89 years old he had the ice maker completely torn apart, cleaning all the parts up because there was some rust on it. And he doesn’t even use the ice maker😂)
Longsuffering. I won’t get into all the details about how Papaw Jess has shown me the value of patience in spite of troubles, but I’m living proof that his patience and prayers influenced my life. While patience is not the biggest virtue of the Keller family😂, we seem to let the small things cause our paitence to wear thin. Papaw has shown throughout his life to be patient when it matters.
Gentleness. Speaking truth in love. We have had many conversations over the years. Conversations about life, love, politics, faith, and much more. We spoke about difficult topics and things happening today that would’ve never been dreamed about when he was a young man. One thing I have learned is that while he has deep convictions and holds firm to his beliefs, he speaks about difficult topics with a loving heart and attitude. He has shown me wisdom in standing strong yet showing love.
Goodness. This man would give the shirt off his back without thinking twice. He is constantly wanting to give to veterans organizations, children’s hospitals, and much more. My first time driving a vehicle was with my papaw. We were way back in the woods in Swiss Colony, cutting wood for people in need to use for heat and he threw me the keys at 10 years old. He was always teaching me to care for others. His goodness is hard to measure because he has done so much for so many.
Faith. As you can already tell by reading this, faith is a huge part of Papaw Jess’ life. His Bibles on the end table have always been worn from being read so much. I will never forget hearing his deep voice singing behind me in the pew at church. And how I tried to mimick the way he sang. Everyone would be singing the melody and me and papaw would be belting out the base line. That’s a great memory. His faith is strong and he’s passed that influence down on all his children and grandkids. And I will do the best of my ability to pass that on.
Meekness. It’s hard to meet a man as humble as papaw. A man that I always thought could do anything but I never remember him to brag about anything. He took pride in what he did but was always humble, never boastful. He taught me a work ethic that you always tried to be the best you can be. Be proud of who you are and be proud of what you do, but always be the kind of person that recognizes someone else before yourself.
Temperance. Papaw Jess definitely taught us that alcohol could bite like a serpent. I only knew papaw to occasionally have a glass of homemade wine. Something that he and all his brothers did to boost their immune system and increase the health. It must work because all of them lived long healthy lives. Fortunately we are blessed to still have Papaw Jess around so I hope he keeps drinking his wine. I actually never knew that he did that until I was probably 28-29 years old. One night I walked in at his house and accidentally caught him with a glass. He was so embarrassed that he ended up explaining to me why he did it.
The fruits of the spirit are ripe in Papaw Jess. A man with a legacy that will last forever. I’m thankful for every day that I have got to spend with him and I hope that we have many many more. His legacy will definitely live on in my life as I try to instill the fruits of the spirits in my children. Thank you Papaw Jess for being such an amazing man. I love you. My daughter loves you. And I know that you love her too!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
A lot of people struggle with praying because they believe they need to use the right words or feel like they don’t know how to pray or what to say. I’ve been told by many people of getting extremely nervous about praying out loud with others. Some seem to think they have to know and use phrases like “How great thou art oh Lord.” Or they think that they must use King James Version verbatim when talking to the Lord. Or maybe it’s that they want their prayer to sound elegant or maybe even impressive to someone else. The Bible gives many references on how pray, why to pray, and even examples of prayers. (Luke 11:1-13, Matt. 6:4 & 9-13, James 4:8, Matt 14:23, Mark 1:35, and many more) For now, I just want my little girl to learn that God wants to talk to you and he wants you to talk to him. It’s as simple as that. Gods not concerned about your proper prayer format or the words you use. He just wants to hear you!
With all that said, your mom and I have been praying with you everyday since the day you were born! We pray before every meal and mommy helps you with a bedtime prayer every night. We always keep it simple. We thank the Lord for our family. We thank the Lord for our food. We sometimes thank the Lord for your toys and even Disney World😜. Mommy prays for angels to watch over you and protection. Most of the time you close one eye while squinting and peaking out the other at mommy and daddy. I think you’ve caught us doing that to you because we’re trying to see what you’re doing😍. Our purpose has always been to teach you that talking to Jesus is easy and important.
Last night, your mommy and I were blessed with you saying your first prayer! We ask you all the time if you want to say our prayers but until last night you have always smiled and said no. But last night, at the Dairy Dart, after being served cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, Mac and cheese, and French fries…..you bowed your head and prayed…
“Jesus, thank you for mommy! Thank you for daddy! Thank you for Audrey! And thank you for this food! AMEN!!!!!”
My heart overflows with joy continuously because of you. I’m so proud of you! I love you girl!
There’s no doubt…I’ve been blessed more than I could’ve ever imagined! I have a beautiful wife that loves Jesus and that I love more than anything and I trust her completely! I have a beautiful, healthy baby girl that has stolen my heart! What more could a man ask for?
Audrey, your mommy is an unbelievably amazing woman! She’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside…and I might add that daddy knows she’s smokin hot! (Is it ok that I call your mommy hot?) She has the biggest heart and cares for people so much! She’s always been the kind of person to put others first. Always trying to build people up. I’m a lucky man to have your mommy for the rest of my life.
And you, Audrey, are the icing on the cake! I’m so thankful to be your daddy. You are smart, beautiful, funny, bubbly, silly, fearless, clever, brave, adventurous, and most of all you’re daddy’s little girl! You are truly amazing and you have been since the day you were born and you will be forevermore!! I already know you’re going to do great things. I don’t know how I could be any prouder of you than I already am but I’m sure you’ll prove me wrong. Each day seems to just get better and better.
I’m so thankful for my family! I’m so thankful for God’s blessings. Our life may not be perfect, but it’s perfect to me! God is Good!
James 1:17 ESV
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”
Psalm 100:1-5 ESV
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Isaiah 12:4-5 ESV
“And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.”
The single most important lesson I want my little girl to know wrapped up in the words of a simple, yet powerful song!
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