This was a great day. We gathered at Hidden Pond with members of the Keller family, including wife Cara, sons Greg and Mark, daughter Karen, and four grandchildren (Matthew, Jacob, Cassidy, and Caraline).
Others present included stewards and volunteers from Palos Restoration Project, former 3rd Ward Alderman Tom McAvoy of Hickory Hills and other neighbors, and Kathy Wurster, Mary Busch, Mike Hart and Chip O'Leary from FPCC.
Roger loved jazz so it was appropriate that celebrants marched through Hidden Pond Woods behind the Four Star Brass Band of Chicago as they played “When the Saints Go Marching In”.
After reaching the bench site, we listened as Cara recited an original poem about Roger's years in restoration. Then we shared personal thoughts and memories. We heard some of the adventures of the Keller children at Hidden Pond in their childhood, before Roger's retirement and stewardship there.
Diana Krug said she had no car when she started volunteering so Roger drove her to workdays. A neighbor once asked Roger if a plant in his yard was flower or weed and was, in turn, asked "What do you want it to be?" Alderman McAvoy viewed Roger as a 'character' and 'cross between Grizzly Adams and Hemingway'. High praise indeed.
Several of our stewards and volunteers spoke of the ways Roger had helped them in their own restoration careers. Others spoke of his impact on young people coming into the field.
When all had spoken we left the prairie, again to the strains of Dixieland jazz, finishing in the grove with a picnic lunch provided by FPCC.
The inscription on Roger’s bench, composed by Steward Joe Neumann, reads “Children learned, volunteers labored, the prairie lives on. With hope for the future and gratitude to Steward Roger Keller.” A fitting salute.