Michael Ray Keepers
May 21, 1955 - June 16, 2016
Michael Ray Keepers was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma Washington, to Shirley Keerins and Richard Keepers. Mike’s childhood years were spent as a member of a military family. The family relocated frequently, living on base wherever his stepfather was stationed. Mike was an active, inquisitive youngster who enjoyed the outdoors and participated in team sports. He was a talented athlete and especially loved to play baseball. As a young man he studied martial arts.
In the summer of 1973, following graduation from high school, Mike joined the United States Army. He fondly recalled memories of his time stationed in Germany, enjoying their culture and hospitality. Mike liked the camaraderie of the German beer festivals and the hearty German food. He and his friends spent time on leave backpacking around Europe exploring, and meeting new people. Mike received a National Defense Service Medal - Marksman M16. He was Honorably Discharged in August 1979.
Mike returned to Oregon after discharge from active duty service, setting up house in Albany with a group of friends. He worked as a logger for a time. Mike attended Western Oregon State College in Monmouth, graduating in June 1983.
Mike began working for the State of Oregon Department of Corrections in October 1984, initially serving in Security. In November 2015 he completed 31 years of service, retiring from his position as an Office Specialist 2 in the mailroom of the Oregon State Penitentiary. Following retirement Mike worked as a temporary employee until illness forced his resignation in January 2016. Mike and his colleagues continued to share memorable stories with one another about their time together at OSP.
Mike had an interest in photography and woodworking. He possessed an extensive collection of tools and cameras. Mike was a capable handyman, and never more content or relaxed than when immersed in a task building or repairing something. Mike was a generous man, willing to share his time and talents, readily jumping in to problem-solve or tackle a task when called upon.
Mike married three times and divorced. Mike did not have his own children, though he recalled with pride caregiving his stepchildren.
Mike looked after many pets throughout his life. He held a particular soft spot in his heart for his dogs. Mike’s Golden Retriever Casey, started out as a “runt”, but eventually tipped the scales at well over 100 pounds! Casey grew into a real crowd pleasing canine character, loving nothing more except tasty treats, than clowning around performing for his human audience. Casey was the apple of Mike’s eye. They were inseparable.
Mike was a man of restless energy. He loved the outdoors and hiking in the woods. He enjoyed many adventures in the wilderness hunting and fishing with his buddies. He was especially fond of the Metolius River and the Jefferson Wilderness area in Eastern Oregon. Mike logged many miles walking around the city of Salem with his faithful companions, Casey and friend Laura. Casey was a frequent object of stranger admiration, always a reliable conversation starter.
Mike loved to talk and engaged in his favorite past time at every opportunity. His storytelling was legendary. He shared numerous exciting tales, replete with dramatic chance personal encounters and wild adventures involving harrowing rescues and narrow escapes. He had a way of enthusiastically embellishing his experiences in exacting detail, painting an undeniably vivid picture for his listeners.
Mike was known for a hearty appetite, relishing and consuming his food with characteristic gusto and efficiency. He was gently admonished more than once to “slow down and taste the food!” He was particularly fond of dessert. German chocolate cake and cheesecake were favorites. He tolerated affectionate ribbing with a line co-opted from an old cereal commercial, “give it to Mikey-Mikey will eat it!”
Mike battled metastatic lung cancer for the last 3 years of his life. He gathered a supportive team of people to help him on his journey. His friends, OSP co-workers, and many medical professionals walked the path of healing beside him, sharing expertise, assistance, encouragement and reassurance as needed. Mike responded well to his cancer treatment. Remarkably he experienced few of the predictable side effects of his illness and treatment. His daily routine did not appreciably change, other than frequent medical appointments and feeling a bit tired at times. Though Mike steadfastly refused to submit to resting. He never napped, except when he nodded off on the rare occasions when forced to sit still. Mike and his supporters were inspired and encouraged about his positive progress. He looked forward to remission and recovery from the cancer.
Sadly, despite aggressive treatment and optimism, the cancer did return and spread relentlessly. During his final months, Mike was lovingly tended to and cared for at the Edward F. Tokarski Home-Willamette Valley Hospice in West Salem. A dedicated compassionate team of friends, staff, co-workers, numerous professionals and generous volunteers remained at his side. Despite being bedridden and completely dependent, Mike maintained a humble, if not somewhat pleasantly confused, gracious attitude and acceptance of his condition. His beloved Golden Retriever Casey, was a welcome guest at his bedside. Mike slipped away peacefully without pain, in the early morning hours of June 16, 2016.
Casey continues to enjoy the companionship and loving care to which he had been so accustomed. He has a permanent home with a friend, who was well acquainted with Casey, and actively involved with Golden Bond Rescue of Oregon.
Mike’s enthusiasm for life in the moment, his generous nature and casual optimism, expressed so well through his extensive wardrobe of “Life Is Good” baseball caps and t-shirts, will be truly missed and remembered fondly.
Mike was pre-deceased by his grandparents, father, mother and stepfather. He is survived by a half-sister Shawnie K. Johnston 54, in Brooks, Oregon.
A memorial service is planned to be held at Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service on Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 6 pm.
Charitable donations or gifts in the name of Michael R. Keepers may be directed to Willamette Valley Hospice Edward F. Tokarski Home “Pet Peace of Mind” resident pet care program and/or to “Golden Bond Rescue of Oregon.”
Instructions for donation to either organization may be found online.
Willamette Valley Hospice
Donor Services WVH 1015 3rd Street NW Salem, OR 97304
Phone: 503-588-3600 or email DonorServices@wvh.org
Golden Bond Rescue of Oregon, Inc. is a Non-Profit Federal ID No. 93-1112566
Make a check payable to Golden Bond Rescue, Inc. and mail to:
PO Box 25391
Portland, OR 97298
Website: www.goldenbondrescue.com click link “Support Us” for donation forms