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Rev. William  Keene

Obituary for Rev. William Keene

January 14, 1933 - July 22, 2020
Avon Lake, Ohio | Age 87

Loving Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, Brother, Friend


William Clifford Keene, of Avon Lake, OH, age 87, born January 14, 1933, died peacefully in his sleep on July 22nd, 2020, due to a combination of myasthenia gravis, old age and a life well lived, joining his beloved wife Dorie on what would have been her 90th birthday. He was preceded in death by his parents, Clawson (C.O.) and Mildred (nee Swain) Keene, his wife Dolores, and his grandson, Russell Brill. He is survived by his brother, Jack Keene, Apollo Beach, FL and 8 children: Stephanie Keene, Evanston, IL; David Keene (Jodi), Kokomo, IN; Cyndi Keene (Dann Sartor), Hillsboro, OR; Douglas Brill (Kelly), Avon Lake; Cheryl Collins (Chuck), North Canton; Carol Brill, Asheville, NC; Brett Brill (Cindy), Silvis, IL; and David Brill (Karen), Bay Village; as well as 18 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Bill was born in Lansing, MI, but grew up in Lancaster, OH, with his parents and younger brother, Jack, working in the family dairy. He was very engaged in the community of Lancaster, delivering newspapers, going to First Presbyterian and living what he described as an idyllic childhood.
From an early age he was called to ministry and chose the Presbyterian College of Wooster. At the end of his freshman year, he craved adventure, and against the wishes of his father, he and some friends bought an old car and drove to Alaska. They made it, the car did not. He loved telling the stories of that trip all of his life, especially the fact that he ended up working in a dairy in Alaska that summer, after going away to avoid working in his Dad's!
At Wooster, he met his first wife, Jean Martinetti, of New York. During their marriage they traveled to Princeton, NJ for his divinity degree, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa; then to Herington, KS for his first call to ministry and his ordination in the Presbyterian Church in 1958; then to Amherst, OH at Westminster Presbyterian, having three children along the way.
By 1971, his first marriage had ended and he married Dolores Howry Brill, adding five stepchildren to his personal flock, moving to Avon Lake, OH, and becoming the pastor of Miles Park Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, OH. Because this was a neighborhood in transition, the presbytery expected the church to close within 5 years due to declining membership, but under Bill's leadership, it lasted 30. During that entire time, he was also a fulltime chaplain for the state mental hospital system, starting at the old Cleveland State Hospital and ending at Hawthorne State Hospital, while earning a masters in psychology from Ashland University. Sit still he did not.
After closing Miles Park in 2001, he tried to retire, but after just a few months he knew he had to go back to ministry. He was called to Parma South Presbyterian as an interim minister and parish associate, positions he held for about 10 years. It was during that time that his beloved Dorie died after 35 years of marriage. Finally, at the age of 80, he retired for good, because "the hospital hallways got too long for clergy visits."
In his 80s, he had an active life at Independence Village in Avon Lake, giving "Bible with Bill" lectures, singing at the piano, golfing, and being his normal, happy, helping self until felled by myasthenia gravis. He spent his final year being cared for and treated like family by the Lutheran Home in Westlake.
Bill, quite simply, was one of the best human beings anyone had the pleasure to meet or know. The minister that the world saw was exactly the same person we saw at home. His faith inspired his purpose for living and was the reason he treated everyone he encountered with dignity. He personified what one should expect from clergy: kindness, acceptance, wisdom, and servant leadership. He was incapable of saying no to a request and yet he taught us as he helped us. He was a friend to all, minister to many, an exemplary son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Anyone who had the privilege of having him in their lives was better for it. We will all miss him very much.
A virtual celebration of Bill's life will be scheduled at a later date. If you are interested in additional information regarding this service, please send an email to Donations may be made in Bill's memory to Avon Lake United Church of Christ, his final church home. 440933.3202

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  • Avon Lake United Church of Christ
    32801 Electric Blvd.
    Avon Lake, OH 44012

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163 Avon Belden Road
Avon Lake, OH 44012
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