Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Man To Long Remember

In the mid-1970's newspaper writer Polly Morris didn't write many obituaries, but when Selvey Keller passed away, she felt moved to tell about his life, community and family.  It was an article to ponder over and reflect upon how much it means to appreciate those individuals around us who do what they have to do, to work and make money to provide for their families. 

This is a tribute, perhaps to one man, but then again perhaps to all those steadfast individuals, both men and women, who just keep determined, to help friends when needed, to sow peace and contentment when possible, and to greet strangers with a friendly hello. That's an admirable set of goals in these days and times.

Here's the article written by Polly Morris about Selvey Keller, "A Man to Long Remember."

A Man To Long Remember

Sometimes when someone passes away a brief notice in the newspaper is not enough.

A man need not be an executive or a civic leader or a scientist to deserve such special attention. He need be only a very special person in his own way and with those he calls friends.

Selvey Keller was that kind of person. He was a big friendly man and a square shooter if there ever was one.

Many knew him for his kindness and generosity, and he was often a friend even to strangers. Many will miss him greatly for his warm heart, the clasp of his strong work-worn hands, and his deep laughter.

Selvey Keller was seventy five years young. No one could really believe he was three quarters of a century old,  for he was an active man. He was a long time resident of St. Tammany Parish, the son of Everett and Sarah Depriest Keller who lived in the town of St. Tammany. As a youth he worked as a logger, hauling pine knots and pulp wood to the Florenville receiving station.

After he married Lenora Moran in 1923, and they started a family, he quit the logging business for commercial fishing. To support a wife and seven children, he was out on the bayous and lake before dawn, paddling around in his 13-foot cypress boat. He supplied seafood markets with fish, crabs, bullfrogs and turtles. He also supplemented his income with pelts of raccoon, nutria, and muskrats, and alligator hides.

Selvey Keller liked to think back on two memorable "takes," one being an alligator that measured 11 feet and ten inches from Goose Point, and the other a huge turtle from Baquet that tipped the scales at 104 pounds.

When his wife died in 1962, he was of the age to retire, but he kept on fishing and running his crab traps. Maybe he was less lonely on the bayous than if he had stayed at home. He and his children were always close, but it was not the same back at the house. He was a familiar figure on the waterways for over half a century.

But he was even better known for his old-fashioned courtesy and unwavering kindness. He liked for people to call him Mr. Selvey, but his nicknames pleased him even more. Friends called him "Gator Keller" in Covington, and "Papa Coon" in Lacombe and Big Branch. He would always laugh and say in his deep voice, "Yeah, that's me alright!"

Selvey Keller died at his home in Lacombe as quietly as he had lived. He was found on July 22 sitting at his own table. Somehow it was as though he wanted it that way, for he never liked to inconvenience anyone. He had rather help them instead.

His services were held at Brown Funeral Home in Covington. His survivors included seven children, nineteen grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. His children included Hubert Keller of Mandeville, Preston Keller of Pensacola, FL, Mrs. Hilda Russell of New Orleans, Mrs. Henrietta Hurston and Mrs. Yvonne Allison of Covington, Mrs. Nadine LaLanne of Madisonville, and Mrs. Bertha Lee McLaughlin of Hammond.

He was laid to rest beside his wife whom he had never ceased to love, even after she died. They lie in a quiet little cemetery in St. Tammany, LA, and are surrounded by those they loved, family and friends alike.

There is a familiar old epitaph that has a new and a true meaning when the friends and family of Selvey Keller left him sleeping in the warm earth near where he was born. He is gone, but he is not forgotten. 

 Here is an image of the Polly Morris article as it appeared in the News Banner newspaper. Click on the image to make it larger. 

Thanks again to Polly for writing about the people and places of Lacombe and St. Tammany Parish. After reading one of her articles, I was always a little more in tune with life with the Tammany family of old-timers and new-comers. 


Polly Morris joined the writing team at the Mandeville Banner in February of 1974.