Beaufort loses Jack Keener, an icon to all who knew him

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By Billy Keyserling

While riding in the Veterans Day Parade last week, my colleagues and I somehow got on the subject of acorns falling from trees. When a question arose that we could not answer, we thought about Jack Keener who was the expert on such things, among most other matters of nature. What a loss Jack’s tragic death brings to our community.

As I get older, I seem to be going to way too many funerals. But I find at most funerals, I have a “take away” that I want to share with others since there are so many lessons to learn when examining and celebrating the lives of those who have been cornerstones in our wonderful community.

Several weeks ago, I attended a huge gathering where throngs of people assembled at the Beaufort National Cemetery to celebrate the life of one of Beaufort’s quiet and unsung heroes.

Jack Keener was a former classmate from Beaufort High School, who I had the good fortune to work with while in the State Legislature and since. Though I never became one of Jack’s close friends, I admired his passion and commitment to learning, to teaching and to sharing with others his vast knowledge about the special quality of life in the Lowcountry.

As l looked around seeing his family, former colleagues and friends grieving our loss, I actually thought about those who were unfortunate to have never had the opportunity to know Jack Keener. Those who did not benefit from his gentle kindness or the generous way he shared his lifetime assemblage of knowledge about the outdoors on the land as well as in our estuaries and waterways. Jack who served his community in so many ways.

My take away led me to pause to remind myself of what community is all about: how engaging with others is important and fulfilling and how many in our community I do not know and have, accordingly, never learned from.

Jack was a giant whose life is to be remembered as such. His loss is a wake-up call to those who do not reach out to each other and engage others who have so much to offer.

Fortunately, we still have time. Let’s not waste it. Let’s get to know each other better and benefit from the exchange of the vast knowledge and ideas our diverse community offers.