KENNETH P. KELLER
Kenneth Phillip Keller, 77, of Southington, beloved husband of Beverly (Konopka) Keller, died unexpectedly at the Hospital of Central Connecticut on March 20, 2011. He was born in St. Louis, Mo., on Jan. 4, 1934, to Earl and Audrienne (Childs) Keller.
Ken grew up in Centralia, Ill. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in New London where he met his first wife, Noreen Karpe, of Middletown. She predeceased him in 1987. Throughout their 30 years together, they not only raised a loving family of four children but also opened their home and hearts to provide much needed care and love for many foster children.
Following discharge from the Navy, Ken began his 24-year career in child welfare with the Department of Children and Families, State of Connecticut. In 1989, Ken's life's dream came true when he founded Adoption Services of Connecticut, a private, non-profit agency. As a result of his gentle nature and genuine care for people, its success grew rapidly and within two years, he placed more children with adoptive families than any other private agency in the state. In 1992, when the People's Republic of China was in the process of revising their adoption regulations, Ken developed a plan to place Chinese children with Connecticut families.
With the assistance of an interpreter, he established a working relationship with the director of Adoptions in Beijing and subsequently received a formal invitation to meet with the Ministers of Justice and Adoption Affairs to present the agency's credentials. The much-anticipated trip came to fruition in March 1993. After meetings and credential reviews, Adoption Services of Connecticut became the first Connecticut agency approved, under the newly promulgated regulations, to place Chinese children with Connecticut families.
An itinerary was immediately set up for Ken and Bev to visit the Children's Welfare Institute for Handicapped Children in Xian. While there, they noticed a beautiful little girl, using a walker, who followed them in the hallways and photographed her. After much correspondence with authorities in Beijing and Xian they learned she was Yan Qin, a five-year-old girl, who was abandoned at birth. During their second trip to China, following completion of the adoption process for eight Connecticut families, they traveled to Xian to visit Yan Qin. Soon after, she became the newest member of the Keller family. Adoption Services of Connecticut and the China Program flourished until Ken's retirement in 1999.
Ken loved and lived life to the fullest. He especially treasured their annual October trip to Aruba, attending church on Sundays and singing the hymn "Luna de October" loud and clear in Papiamento as well as the beauty of the ocean and the Aruban people, many of whom he befriended. The holidays and summertime gatherings with his children and grandchildren at his summer home in Charlestown, R.I. were a special joy to him. Despite his medical problems, Ken always maintained his quick wit and gentle manner. Those special traits won him many friends throughout his life.
In addition to his wife, Beverly, and daughter, Yan Qin, he is survived by his two sons, Paul Manson Keller and Kenneth Michael Keller of Middletown; his daughter and son-in-law, Suzanne and Emerson Lynn; granddaughters: Hillary, Audrey and Maris Lynn of St. Albans; and special sister-in-law, Linda Z. Konopka of Clinton. He was predeceased by his brother, Russell Earl; and his daughter, Patricia Marie.
The funeral was held in New Haven, Conn., Friday, March 25, 2011. Burial will be private.