Whether you knew him as “the Old Farmer,” the “Ugly” from “The Good, Bad and Ugly” weightlifting club, or simply as “Mr. Keith, sir,” when you met him in a school hallway, Dean Keith made an impression wherever he went.
Dean was born July 9, 1940, to Ferdinand S. and Joyce Ann (Christensen) Keith in Gregory, South Dakota. He graduated from Gregory High School in 1958, with a reputation as an all-around athlete.
Football sent him to Huron College, where he played the sport with competitive passion for four years, earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary math and physical education, and met his dearest love, Gladys Von Behren, of Wentworth, SD.
The two married in 1961 and started life together as teachers in Crofton, NE, and Elkpoint, SD. Daughter Caroline was born in 1964 and son Greg in 1967. From the beginning, his family was a top priority, whether he was supporting music lessons, leading a baseball team, taking the whole family on a camping trip, or driving Gladys around the countryside to look for pheasants and deer. He welcomed son-in-law Doug and daughter-in-law Jaymee with his big heart and typical sense of humor, and he took tremendous pride and pleasure in spending time with his grandsons Cody and Zachary Keith.
Dean received a master’s degree in school administration in 1965 and built a career in education officially as a math teacher, driver’s education instructor, coach, and principal. Informally, he became a mentor and friend to hundreds of teenagers who responded to his personal motto of “Honesty and Mutual Respect”. He worked with students and their families in Armour, SD, Gillette, WY, Custer, SD, and Winner, SD, before retiring to Worland, WY, in 2002.
While in Worland, he and Gladys spent their retirement as part-time employees for King’s CarpetOne, where Dean shared his unique brand of humor and leadership with the King family and the store’s customers for several years. He also had time in Worland to develop interests in turning wood and creating tile mosaics, and he shared the results with many family members and friends.
In 2014, he and Gladys drove to Alaska and moved to a home in Kasilof where they could live in the same time zone as their children and grandsons. He learned to fish the Peninsula’s rivers thanks to a new friend and had terrific success, including his first king salmon catch.
In fact, much of the time he spent with his immediate and extended family, and his friends, involved doing something outdoors that would lead to meat for the table, pictures for the album, and stories to tell over and over. That included fishing adventures on the Missouri River, camping and backpacking trips throughout the Black Hills and Bighorn and Wind River Mountains, and hunting jaunts across Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Alaska. He respected wildlife and followed a strict personal code of sportsmanship and stewardship, and he instilled that respect for the land in his children, grandsons, and other hunting and fishing partners.
A rare form of leukemia claimed his body on June 26, 2016, but his spirit and stories endure, especially when shared over a cup of coffee. He took his black.