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Bill Keller dies at 87 in Florida

Bill Keller dies at 87 in Florida
Bill Keller dies at 87 in Florida
Bill Keller

William H. (Bill) Keller, the former CEO and chairman of the board for Keller Manufacturing Co. Inc., died Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005, at the Lodge at Cypress Cove in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 87.
Keller had been ill the last two months and was hospitalized on Christmas Day, said his daughter, Nancy Keller of Corydon.
‘Up until then, he had been fine,’ she said, adding that they had gone out for dinner over Thanksgiving.
A native of Corydon, Keller joined the family business in 1939 as a ‘jackleg engineer’ and learned the business from the bottom up after earning a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Southern California.
‘Bill was a hands-on type of manager,’ said Danny Utz of Lanesville, who worked at the dining room and bedroom manufacturing plant for 31 years, from 1973 to 2004, most of those years with Keller. ‘He expected a lot from his people.’
Despite his toughness, Keller was very personal and employee friendly.
‘He knew most of the people who worked in the plant at least by their first name,’ Utz said, recalling how Keller walked the half-mile from his Corydon home overlooking the plant and would enter the factory through the boiler room and greet employees on his way to his office.
A casual dresser, Keller often wore tennis shoes to work. ‘We teased that it was so he could sneak up on you,’ Utz said. And people who knew him will remember that he kept to a schedule, ‘every second of the day,’ he said.
Keller succeeded his father, the late Charles A. Keller, as company president in 1955. He semi-retired in 1991 and was succeeded by Robert W. Byrd, and continued to serve as chairman of the board until 1998.
In an article in this newspaper in 1989 about his 50 years in the business, Keller said, ‘The job is 50 percent teaching, 25 percent policy and strategy, and 25 percent execution … ‘
Utz said he received a letter last summer from Keller who was inquiring about how the business was doing.
‘Even though he was living in Sanibel Island (Fla.), he still had something to say,’ Utz said. ‘Keller was his life. He never really retired.’
Keller was born April 7, 1917, the son of the late Charles A. and Fern Bean Keller.
He was a member of Corydon United Methodist Church and Corydon Rotary Club, and was a founding member of the old Corydon Country Club.
Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Marjorie Keller; a son, Allen Keller of Somers Point, N.J.; another daughter, Judith Anderson of Beaufort, S.C.; two stepsons, William Davis of Corydon and Donald Stacy of Sanibel Island; three stepdaughters, Crissy Collins of Cincinnati, Susette Fitzgerald of Godfrey, Ill, and Carol A. Pauli of Zurich, Switzerland; four grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Visitation is today (Wednesday) from 6 to 9 p.m. at Gehlbach & Royse Funeral Home in Corydon.
The funeral will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at Corydon United Methodist Church. The Rev. Esther Wilson will officiate, and Keller’s grandson, the Rev. Dr. John Anderson, will participate. Burial will follow in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Corydon.
The family suggests memorial gifts to the Sanibel Island Library Fund or donor’s choice.