As a friend of Keith's, I thought I would share some of the fabulous memories and moments we had together. I met Keith on the very first day of school at Kellogg in September 1996. In an introductory session Keith, Homer Luther and myself all spoke of our passion for fly fishing. Soon we were meeting each other in our classes, in the hallways and at social events exchanging stories of our fishing adventures. Keith had fished throughout the West. Homer had caught giant fish in Argentina. Keith was the first that fall to take a trip to Racine, Wisconsin to fish for steelhead. Homer and I jealously followed just days later only to get skunked. It was Keith's idea to take a trip to the Perre Marquette River in Michigan. We picked an early November weekend and hoped for good weather. The Perre Marquette has transplanted Skamania River Steelhead from Washington State that are famous for they're fighting stamina. The weekend was an absolute blast from start to finish. However, it was the company and not the fishing that made the memory. Homer, Chris (Keith's roommate), Peanut , Keith and I were not rewarded with either good weather or good fishing. Over the two days we caught only a few fish and no steelhead. But the bond was formed, my new friends were real fishermen. Despite freezing cold, eight inches of snow in eight hours and no fish, no one even thought to complain. We were out fishing and that was all that really mattered.
In the spring of 1997, as soon as the weatherman reported the potential for a weekend of sunshine, Keith and I headed for the spring creeks around the town of Finley in Southwest Wisconsin. Keith and I talked almost nonstop on both legs of the 5-hour drive to and from Finley. I was absolutely impressed with his vision of his future, his focus on the medical industry and his mastery of the associated recruiting process. I distinctly remember wishing that I could get anywhere as near as focused and organized as Keith.
Keith and I had a fair weekend of fishing around Finley. Keith would speed through the countryside while I tried to interpret the almost useless maps we had of the county roads. It was here that I first noticed how fast Keith could put on his waders, vest, boots and string up his rod. I would look up from tying my shoes and he would be standing there patiently waiting, staring intently toward the water, ready to fish.
On one very small creek, Keith spent more than 3 hours trying to catch this huge rainbow that could plainly be seen from the bank. In the time he worked for this fish, I had ranged the entire length of the fishable water. I probably landed half a dozen fish, each time shouting my success back to Keith. He was in a world of his own, I'd bet that he cast a hundred times and changed presentation every 10th cast. Finally just before we absolutely had to leave, he caught the fish. We measured the fish against his rod and before we could get a picture, I accidentally dropped the fish back in the water. Keith was not mad, he had won and everyone there (we were the only people around except for the fish) knew it.
Keith and I ate dinner that night in a bar in downtown Finley. After dinner we were invited to play in the house card game by a group of regular bar-goers. Neither Keith nor I knew how to play this game. The regulars were dumbfounded. They immediately wanted to know where we were from and what were we doing in Finley. We spent the next hour laughing with them about their card game and laughing at anyone who would drive all the way from Chicago to Finley for the fishing.
When we learned of Homer's impending wedding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in June 1997, Keith and I hatched a plan to turn the wedding into a fishing weekend. We told our summer employers that we would need the third Friday of our summer employment off, so that we could attend this very important wedding. Keith and I met in Salt Lake City on Thursday and drove all the way to Idaho Falls, Idaho that night. The next day we got insider information (after we spent a ton of money) from the local Fly Shop. We proceeded to Ashton, Idaho (the seed potato capital of the world! Keith absolutely loved the saying this over and over), off the main highway next to a potato field and then down an unimproved dirt road that no subcompact car should ever travel. At the end of the journey, Keith drove the car while I directed him over the biggest rocks.
I will never forget that day on the Henry's Fork. We had the whole river to ourselves. We could see fish rising all over the river from where we parked the car. Keith was again ready in a flash but waited patiently as I clumsily got my gear together. The river was bubbling with fish and we caught as many as we could. At one point in the day, you couldn't look down river or into the wind because the Mayfly's were so thick they would fly in your eyes and mouth.
We had set a deadline of 4 in the afternoon to pack up our stuff and head for Jackson Hole so that we could attend the grooms dinner. We packed up as planned and stopped at a fast-food restaurant in Ashton for a quick soda. Neither Keith nor I really wanted to go. We sat at the counter brainstorming 'white lies' that we could tell Homer to get out of the rehearsal dinner so that we could stay and fish. Finally, we decided to call and claim that we were halfway to Jackson when we remembered that we left a rod sitting by the river. I thought up the lie, so Keith had to make the phone call. He was very courteous on the phone and they were so understanding and apologetic. Keith was bright red, we absolutely howled with laughter when the call finally ended. We really thought they bought our story!! Like a pair of kids released early from school, we drove back to the water, parked by the road, ran to the river and fished past sunset. Had there been a larger moon, we would have fished all night.
It turns out that everyone in Homer's family is a fisherman or fisherwoman. Not one of them believed our story. The next day at the reception, they kept asking, "so, lost your rod huh?, how was the fishing?."
On Easter weekend in 1998, I got my last chance to fish and hunt with Keith. We traveled to South Texas and fished for Red fish in the Gulf of Mexico near Port Arthur. We had another wonderful time on this trip. In fact, I have only 4 pictures on my desk and walls at work. The first three are pictures of my wife and children. The fourth is one of Homer, Keith, Christopher Wright, Nick Konstantinou and myself posing with our fish in Port Arthur.
Rechelle (my wife) and I would bring our son Jake to Kellogg social events. Keith was always part of our little circle. He would play with Jake and shoot the breeze with the "old married people". He was the first person at Kellogg to put Rechelle at ease by calling her by her childhood nickname 'Red' and consistently inquired about her and Jake.
Because Keith was not moving to the West, Rechelle and I had promised to designate a room in our house as his. I called him in early October and told him that we had finally found a large enough home and that he would have to come out to choose one of the extra rooms as his own. Keith was planning a trip this summer to Sun Valley, Idaho. Together we were going to work on our graduate Fly Fishing degrees on the famous waters of Silver Creek.
I have met a tremendous number of people in my journey through life. I however, have only had the opportunity to really know a handful. Keith is a treasured friend and gifted fisherman. I was really looking forward to more adventures and getting to know him even better. I know that every time I pull on my fishing gear and string my rod, he will be there, patiently waiting and looking at the water. Keith, you and your family are in our prayers every night.
Very Respectfully Yours,