The battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (“Lou Gehrig's Disease”) is over. He knew what the result would be. He faced it with grace and good humor. On Monday, December 28, 2009, Eliot Keller died.
One of Eliot's life goals was to make the world a better place than he found it. It is my opinion that he succeeded more than he could have realized.
Eliot and his long-time partner Rob Norton founded KRNA-FM in Iowa City. They built KRNA into a model locally owned station. Then, they acquired another FM station in Cedar Rapids (now KZIA-FM). KRNA was sold when an offer was made that could not be refused. KZIA-FM continues to be locally owned and has been joined by KGYM (AM)(formerly KCRG (AM)).
Eliot and I met around 1970 when I first went to work at WHO, Des Moines. He was a stringer in Iowa City. I worked part-time in the sports department. Eliot would send film of Iowa Hawkeye football games, and he would provide stories about other events around Iowa City. We spent a dangerous night together in Iowa City in April 1971. I was there to cover protests by a number of individuals who were upset with the continuing war in Vietnam. As Eliot and I stood near a major intersection in Iowa City, someone threw several rocks at us. I was an easy target with a film camera and light. One of the rocks hit the camera. Eliot and I very quickly scrambled up an embankment and into some trees to get out of the "line of fire". Eliot was always interested in technology. He had a portable radio that could tie into the telephone system. I used it several times that night in Iowa City to report on the situation for WHO Radio. It beat having to find a pay phone.
Our friendship grew over the years. One of my life goals was to establish my own radio station. I thought that the best place to go would be southern Iowa or northern Missouri (where I grew up). Eliot and I would exchange information and ideas. He'd offer suggestions. We'd talk about the need for any broadcast station to be focused on the community of license and to provide quality local service. Unlike Eliot, I was not willing to go out on a limb and borrow the money needed and necessary to put a station on the air. Instead, I chose to go back to school and to study law.
We shared another passion: passenger train service. For at least twenty-five years, Eliot and I have worked together to try to improve passenger train service in the state of Iowa and to convince the public that an investment in passenger trains will be very beneficial. Eliot carried the title of Excursion Chair for the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers. His business knowledge and acumen allowed the organization to operate a number of successful passenger train excursions. His organizational skills resulted in safe, enjoyable projects.
Eliot adopted email very quickly. His numerous daily missives were always appreciated. He was a clearing house for information and ideas. He was willing to share. He was not afraid to comment. His criticisms were constructive. His advice sage.
Eliot was one of the best editors with whom I have ever worked. For a while I wrote a newsletter for the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers. I'd prepare the newsletter, and then, send it by telephone modem to Eliot for review and critique. Back, again, by 300 baud telephone modem, would come corrected copy. I would marvel at the way he could suggest improving the copy to make it better.
Words that have been used to described Eliot have included persistent, persevering, committed, dedicated, difficult, and wise. These are all good words, but I think that the best way to describe Eliot Keller is friend. He was my friend. My life, and the lives of many others, have been improved because of Eliot Keller.
Rest in peace, my friend. Your mission here on earth is over; your final broadcast has been made.