Donald Keeler, 75 years old, long-time resident of Chehalis Wash., died peacefully Nov. 10, 2018, in Rockville Md.
He fought the good fight against diabetes but succumbed to the disease's many faces. His family had encouraged him to move to the East Coast to be closer to them during his final months.
Don’s life-long love of milk production, Holstein dairy cows and the purebred dairy industry began when he was quite young. The second child of Lloyd Keeler and Geraldine McCarthy Keeler, Don was orphaned at 6 years of age, his older sister having died shortly after birth.
After moving through several foster homes Don was embraced by Ross and Inez Tichenor of La Honda, Calif. His life on the small "family" farm began and farm life was inoculated into his blood stream until his death. The early days were hand milking, cream separators and 5 gallon buckets on the landing for the creamery to pick up daily or every other day.
In the early years of Don’s farm life his foster father led him into the world of artificial insemination, which was "hot semen" initially and only after a few years did frozen semen become available. Don recalls the birth of his first artificially inseminated calf as being one of the events of his life that made him feel most alive.
This advent also was the start of his life-long interest in the pure-bred industry. From showing his own cows at the local fairs to being a member of the Show Team at California Polytechnic University to showing bulls for ABS to his years of employment and showing for Marlin Rasmussen of Sar-Ben Farms, Don was clear about his love for the Holstein dairy cow and his desire to steadily improve the breed to bring first-rate milk to the tables of Americans.
Don’s first prefix was "Keeler’s Royal" but his foster father guided him to the more permanent and more professional prefix of "La Honda" and registered cows and bulls with the La Honda prefix yielded Don some state champions for milk production, some high sellers for type and even one bull in AI for a short period.
Don began to dairy on his own in the early 1980s but these were tumultuous years for the American dairyman. Don survived the dairy buyout but eventually Don switched from milking his own cows to helping other dairymen to choose the best of the breed to improve their herd as he worked for several semen sales companies, eventually retiring from Accelerated Genetics in 2017.
Everyone who knew him knew three things: Don had his finger on the pulse of the purebred Holstein industry, he knew the genetics behind the bulls he recommended and he was eager to do his part to improve the breed and improve milk production.
Those who knew him also new how much he loved base-ball caps of many but mostly ag logos. He also loved football and all sports with the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners at the top of his favorites.
Don is survived by four of his five children: Adele Keeler Kolf and her husband Paul with their sons James and John and Gregory; Anna Keeler Colburn and her husband Rick with their son Soren; Audrey Keeler Rogers and her husband Tulsi with their children Helena, Madeline, Edmund and Rose; Alan Keeler and his wife Claire Powers Keeler and their children Andrew, Charlie, Lucy, Marion and Genevieve.
The older children who remember the life on the diary credit that life and the duties they assumed as teaching them life lessons that have served them well into adulthood and they thank their father for giving them those precious gifts.
Don’s Ashes were interred at Claquato Cemetery in Chehalis, Wash., next to his son Andrew, who preceded him in death in 2005.