Keeley Bihr of Albuquerque, New Mexico died on July 26, 2008 after a courageous two-year battle against GIST. He was thirty-six years old. The following text is from a talk given by his close friend, Scott Snyder, of Boise, ID at a Life Celebration on July 31. It is a memorable description of who Keeley was and how he lived his life.
“Today is a celebration. A celebration of all of the wonderful memories that were compressed into 36 brilliant years. I would say that Keeley is here with us in spirit, but as most of you are probably aware, his spirit was up at the crack of dawn, had eggs and green chile for breakfast, and is now hiking the La Luz trail in the Sandias wondering if the rest of us have gotten up yet. As beautiful as it is here, I still think he’s got the right idea.
I had the good fortune to meet Keeley in Jr. High School nearly twenty-five years ago in Waverly, NE. Since then he has grown from a friend to a brother, and his wonderful wife, Stephanie, a sister. Despite his Midwestern upbringing, he needed elevation. Keeley was a mountaineer and outdoorsman. He climbed mountains, he studied them, he skied down them, he fell off them. He traversed summits on three continents…. this is where he found his religion.
Keeley trained with the National Outdoor Leadership School and earned a Masters in Ecology, training that drew him to New Mexico. The topography, ecology, cuisine and culture suited him quite well. He loved the beauty of mountain islands within the desert. He was a dedicated steward of the environment and believed that our natural resources are a gift not to be squandered. He rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, not as a tourist but as a scientist. And I can’t help but grin when I think of him putting field mice in a shake-n-bake bag full of fluorescent powder and then chasing them through the nighttime wilderness with a black light.
Family and friends meant so much to him. He adored his nieces and spoke proudly of their accomplishments. He loved his cars and loved to make them go fast. Fortunately, he had a wife who not only allowed it, but outright encouraged it. His dogs, Luna and Rojo, were his children and Luna’s shiny, freshly brushed coat consistently made my dog jealous. His love of cooking meshed nicely with his friends’ love of eating. The fact that he was quite good at it was an added bonus. As an interesting side note I might add that Keeley is the only person I have ever known who possessed a one gallon jug of Tabasco sauce. And the man wondered why he had reflux…
He was a craftsman. He and Stephanie labored many hours to renovate their beautiful home. Keeley and I learned construction lessons together – not just that any given project will take three times longer than you think it should, but also that it is inadvisable to believe that you can rip a hole into the exterior of your house at 11 pm and expect to have it sealed up in time for bed. That experience also taught us the value of a 24hr Home Depot.
I cherish the multitude of fond memories I hold of Keeley and could share hundreds more. I look forward to hearing others’ tales of adventure with the mountain man. Perhaps his spirit will come down from the mountain long enough to join us, and maybe even make us lunch.
I’d like to leave you with a quote from John Muir:
Let the children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blending and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.”