When Jake McMichael shook Reg Keddie’s hand during their countless Rotary Club of Wilsonville meetings and events over two decades, the force of his friend’s grip always left an impression.
“After the handshake was over I would say ‘Oh, my God. You broke my hand Reg,'” McMichael recalled.
And even with Keddie resting on his bed just two days before he died, during the two pals’ final encounter, McMichael was moved by how little Keddie’s strength waned.
“I think he was really glad to see me. It was like an ‘Oh my God’ type of feeling,” McMichael said. “It was something I’ll never forget.”
Keddie, whom Rotary member Kyle Bunch described as a patriarchal figure for the club, died from cancer at age 85 in September after over 40 years in the local club and even longer as a Rotarian. Keddie was also a club president once and is the only member in Wilsonville history to be named governor of Rotary District 5,100, which covers Northern Oregon and Southwest Washington. To commemorate Keddie’s service, the club will dedicate a peace pole to him in Town Center Park. The ceremony to dedicate the pole, which may be livestreamed, will take place Jan. 18.
“The peace pole will be there as a permanent recognition of him,” Bunch said.
Some programs Keddie contributed to over the years included initiatives to eradicate polio worldwide and traveling to Ethiopia to immunize people (Reg had a mild case of polio as a child), providing clean water to areas in the world that didn’t have access to it, including Indonesia, and sponsoring leaders so they can study at Rotary peace centers across the world.
“In Rotary you can come together with people from very different backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles — and you’re working on a common good and a common mission together. For him that was the biggest piece,” Bunch said.
McMichael added: “He was a very spiritual man, very much involved in peacekeeping and building in Rotary outreach.”
Keddie also provided the eggs for the Rotary club’s omelet breakfast fundraisers that were run in partnership with other groups in the community. Then, when he sold his egg farm, he stipulated that the new owner donate his eggs to keep the breakfast going. Ann Keddie, Reg’s wife, said new farm owner Wilcox Farms wanted to throw Reg a dinner party but he said to donate the eggs to him instead. One event requires 50 dozen eggs, Rotary member Laura LaJoie Bishop noted.
“They’ve (provided) a lot of eggs to the Wilsonville rotary and the community,” Ann said.
Reg also relished making pancakes at the breakfasts.
“His recipe has stood for many years. He was the pancake maker and adviser. That was his job and he was not about to relinquish it,” McMichael said. “He loved that capacity.”
Not to mention, Reg hosted students from other countries who were participating in the Rotary’s youth exchange program.
“The Keddie family still had connections with exchange students who stayed with them 40 years ago,” LaJoie Bishop said.
Rotary members noted that Reg was also in charge of providing words of inspiration at the beginning of club meetings and that he routinely delivered thoughtful remarks with historical grounding.
“If we were close to the holidays or Pearl Harbor Day, Mother’s Day, he would always have something that was a relevant inspiration,” LaJoie Bishop said. “He was always about lifting people up and bringing people together.”
According to members, Reg rarely missed Rotary events until a few months before he died. He also regularly hosted get-togethers and handled some administrative work. According to Ann, one of Reg’s early bosses told him he would become a volunteer. Reg never wavered from that imperative.
“He was always the one who was there. He was a very present member, any fundraisers, service projects and a lot of times his wife (was there), too. She was very active,” Bunch said.
LaJoie Bishop met Reg when she joined the Rotary in 1995 and said that his positivity and cordiality to everyone he met influenced her greatly. She said knowing him was an honor.
“The thing that comes to mind the most was how committed he was to family — not just his own personal family but to the Rotary family. He was such a people person,” she said, adding that “he taught me so much about how to lean into people with love and kindness and caring. He made me want to be a better person.”
All in all, McMichael characterized Reg as a “sweet, gentle lion of a man.” He teared up thinking about his passing.
“Reg will really be missed,” he said.
Source: Wilsonville Spokesman. Dec, 2020.