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Epilogue | Rick Keeney

Fun-loving Vietnam vet Rick Keeney had ways to show he cared

PINELLAS PARK — In many ways, Rick Keeney was a big kid.

He collected model John Deere tractors. He never tired of practical jokes and once helped design a haunted house with a fog machine, prisoners begging for help and a man twitching at the end of a noose. As visitors exited, Mr. Keeney sprang out from behind a tombstone.

He also swung a hammer for Habitat for Humanity, volunteered at his children's school and donated gallons of blood.

And when his daughter died of cancer, he built an urn out of cherry wood, her favorite.

Recently, Mr. Keeney and his wife intended to spend more time camping in their new RV. But a seizure at Disney World in May cut those plans short.

The Warsaw, N.Y., native met his future wife in 1969, in a neighborhood bar.

"We were a bunch of girls. He just came over and started talking," said Sally Keeney, 61. "We each one thought the others knew him."

None of them did. One thing Mr. Keeney never talked about: his time in Vietnam, where he took shrapnel to the neck and leg. The Army awarded him two Purple Hearts.

Rick and Sally married in 1971. He built his first home as his son, Shawn, watched. Mr. Keeney would go on to teach the boy how to use a lathe to turn a block of wood into a ballpoint pen or rebuild furniture.

The family moved in 1982 to St. Petersburg, where Mr. Keeney built prefabricated homes. He worked his way up to buyer, and used that experience to get a job with Bayfront Medical Center when the plant closed.

He went back to construction for a couple of years, then spent about 17 years as a buyer for Baxter Healthcare.

He chaperoned his daughter's bus trips to away games with the Dixie Hollins High School band. He looked imposing when he stood up on the bus and told the band members to be quiet.

"Even the big kids backed down," his wife said.

At home, he loved grilling barbecued chicken and listening to a down-and-dirty country song, like Trashy Women by Confederate Railroad or Brad Paisley's Ticks.

The worst time of his life came two years ago when his daughter, Jen, died at 31. After that, he seemed a little less boisterous and more subdued.

Then came his own collapse six months ago at Disney World. A week later, doctors found a brain tumor and diagnosed late-stage cancer.

Mr. Keeney told Sally to take care of their beagle, Buddy. Privately, he told Shawn Keeney to look after his mother.

Mr. Keeney died Nov. 3, at Bay Pines VA Medical Center. He was 63.

His son made the rectangular urn that contains his remains, a reddish brown box with little feet on the corners and sides that look like columns.

He used oak and cherry woods, Mr. Keeney's favorites.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Eric "Rick"

Dwight Keeney

Born: June 3, 1947.

Died: Nov. 3, 2010.

Survivors: Wife Sally; son Shawn; sisters Sydney Storment and Alyson Englert; brothers Leslie, Curtis, Mike and Bruce; four grandchildren.

Fun-loving Vietnam vet Rick Keeney had ways to show he cared 11/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 9:19pm]
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