Friends, students, family and colleagues turned out Saturday for a memorial service at Carson High School for Charles Keller, 59, principal of Pioneer and Opportunity high schools.
But "goodbye" wasn't quite the right word for the somber mix of tears and laughs and what Reverend Bruce Kochsmeier called "sighs too deep for words" in the darkened gymnasium.
"Hello! Hello! Hello!" was the way Keller greeted life, and it was the way many of his friends preferred to greet him in his passing.
An animated picture of Keller, smiling behind a pair of sunglasses with cigar in hand, projected the educator's larger-than-life personality onto a screen while heads bowed in prayer and buoyed with fond memories.
Some mourners pinned miniature ties to their shirts in memory of Keller's unique wardrobe of neckwear.
"We miss our friend Charles," said Rev. Kochsmeier. "To say he will be missed would be a huge understatement. To place a dash between the years he lived is simply not enough."
Pioneer High School student Winter Woodward read a letter to Keller from the students - a letter Keller never got the chance to read. She spoke of his willingness to grant second chances, his rosy cheeks, sense of humor and his unwillingness to quit on anybody.
Friend and teacher Richard Scott shared some favorite stories and summed up Keller's influence as an educator.
"He made each of his students believe they were the most important in the world, and they believed because he did."
As the memory banks emptied, Keller was remembered for, among other things, his perfectly clean desk, his work with Kiwanis, his love of roller coasters and his amazing punctuality.
All the while, there he sat, cigar in hand, a grin on his face.
A reception in Senator Square followed.
Keller died March 11 of pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and daughter, Megan.
- Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.
You can help
Memorial funds are established at U.S. Bank.
For the Megan Keller College Fund make donations to: Account No. 53751812196
For the Charles D. Keller Pioneer Memorial High School Scholarship, make donations to: Account No. 253750892791. That money will go toward a scholarship for a Pioneer High School student.