Moline Memories - MHS 66 Friends

Friday, October 8, 2010

Eliot Keller Remembered - Broadcaster, ALS Patient - LOT Staffer

In Memoriam
Eliot A. Keller (1947-2009)


Eliot Aaron Keller

(IOWA CITY, IOWA) Eliot Aaron Keller, 62, formerly of rural Iowa City, died Dec. 28, 2009 of complications from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (“Lou Gehrig's Disease.”) Keller formerly was President, Treasurer and General Manager of KZIA, INC., which owns and operates KZIA Z102.9, 102.9 HD-2, KGYM 1600 ESPN and 102.9 HD-3 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, serving the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area.

He was one of the founders of KRNA (93.5, 93.9 and 94.1), Iowa City, and served as General Manager from 1974 to 1998. In 1970 he worked in news at WOC AM-TV (now KWQC-TV) in Davenport, Iowa. In 1969 he was in news at WHBF AM-FM-TV (now WKBF-TV) in Rock Island, Illinois. While at the University of Iowa, he worked at WSUI, Iowa City, and at the “Daily Iowan.” He began his professional radio career in 1967 at KCII-AM, Washington, Iowa.

Keller is survived by his wife of 39 years, Sandra, his daughter Nicole M. Keller (T. James Bush) of Indianapolis, Indiana, and his grandson, Cole M. Bush. Other survivors include his sisters-in-law Sharon (McGrew) Caruso (Joseph) of Phoenix, Arizona, and Sue (McGrew) Murphy (Robin) of Ely, Iowa.

Keller received his BA in Radio-TV Journalism and Certificate in Journalism from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, in 1970. He received his MS in Mass Communications from San Diego State University, San Diego, California, in 1976.

He was a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications of the University of Iowa and a member of the National Advisory Board of the Communications Arts Department at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, for a number of years.

In 2009, he was named to the Iowa Broadcaster Hall of Fame by the Iowa Broadcasters Association and the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce awarded Keller the Russell Slade Award for a lifetime of service. In 2008, he was named Corridorian by Access Iowa, now Impact CR, an affiliate of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2004, the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce awarded him its “Volunteer of the Year” award. In 2004, he was also named to the Hall of Fame of the Cedar Rapids Advertising Federation. In 2001, the Iowa Broadcasters Association awarded him its “Broadcaster of the Year” award.

The first Iowa Broadcast News Association Eliot A. Keller Scholarship was presented in 2009, funded by friends of Mr. Keller. The scholarship goes to a student aiming for a career in radio journalism.

Keller was active in a number of volunteer organizations. He chaired the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Council and earlier the Council’s Transportation Subcommittee. He was a member of the Government Affairs Forum of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. He was the moderator for those organizations of a number of legislative forums.

He was Excursion Chair of the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers for more than two decades. He was active in various transportation infrastructure advocacy activities.

In 2007, he was one of the organizers of the National Rail Passenger Leadership Summit (later renamed the National Passenger Train Leadership Summit) in Chicago which brought together transportation advocates from across the country to promote passenger trains (

From 2000-2003 he was a member of the board of directors of the Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, North Freedom, Wisconsin, where he has volunteered for nearly three decades.

He received the “Exceptional Volunteer” Award in 2002.
From 1980-1983 he was a member of the board of the state chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

He had a number of opinion pieces, guest columns and letters published and aired in various media.

One of his hopes was that his activities would make for at least a slightly better world.

Because he spent much of his life helping persons around him focus on the future, in accordance with his wishes there will be no funeral service nor memorial celebration of life.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Iowa Impact Endowment Fund of the University of Iowa Foundation, Iowa City, Iowa; the endowment of Community Foundation of Johnson County, Iowa City, Iowa; or the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, Chicago, Illinois.

Eliot Keller died of ALS, often called Lou Gehrig's disease, December 28, 2009. He transferred as a senior at MHS and graduated in 1966. He was on the Line O Type staff.

"In 1974, Eliot Keller unknowingly started what became one of the most prolific local broadcasting careers the radio industry has seen. With partner Rob Norton, Eliot continually raised the bar as to what it meant to serve the public interest from a little room with a handful of records and a microphone.

If you were lucky enough to know or work with him, the public service side of Eliot Keller was always inspirational. He was a powerful voice in the radio industry and in the local community he worked so hard to serve.

This public service, important as it is, was never the reason you looked forward to spending time with Eliot. He always had a knack of making you feel that none of the work was as important as you are.

Knowing that the radio broadcasting industry and our community as a whole has lost a natural leader, we will miss the man. With one of the most infectious smiles and a giggle that was all Eliot, his warmth as a father, husband, partner, manager and friend will be missed most of all."


George Davison Iowa Law

Eliot Keller

The battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (“Lou Gehrig's Disease”) is over.  He knew what the result would be.  He faced it with grace and good humor.  On Monday, December 28, 2009, Eliot Keller died.

One of Eliot's life goals was to make the world a better place than he found it.  It is my opinion that he succeeded more than he could have realized.

Eliot and his long-time partner Rob Norton founded KRNA-FM in Iowa City.  They built KRNA into a model locally owned station.  Then, they acquired another FM station in Cedar Rapids (now KZIA-FM).  KRNA was sold when an offer was made that could not be refused.  KZIA-FM continues to be locally owned and has been joined by KGYM (AM)(formerly KCRG (AM)).
In keeping with his character and organizational skills, Eliot wrote his own obituary.  KZIA-FM has a tribute to its founder and leader.

Eliot and I met around 1970 when I first went to work at WHO, Des Moines.  He was a stringer in Iowa City.  I worked part-time in the sports department.  Eliot would send film of Iowa Hawkeye football games, and he would provide stories about other events around Iowa City.  We spent a dangerous night together in Iowa City in April 1971.  I was there to cover protests by a number of individuals who were upset with the continuing war in Vietnam.  As Eliot and I stood near a major intersection in Iowa City, someone threw several rocks at us.  I was an easy target with a film camera and light.  One of the rocks hit the camera.  Eliot and I very quickly scrambled up an embankment and into some trees to get out of the "line of fire".  Eliot was always interested in technology.  He had a portable radio that could tie into the telephone system.  I used it several times that night in Iowa City to report on the situation for WHO Radio.  It beat having to find a pay phone.
Our friendship grew over the years.  One of my life goals was to establish my own radio station.  I thought that the best place to go would be southern Iowa or northern Missouri (where I grew up).  Eliot and I would exchange information and ideas.  He'd offer suggestions.  We'd talk about the need for any broadcast station to be focused on the community of license and to provide quality local service.  Unlike Eliot, I was not willing to go out on a limb and borrow the money needed and necessary to put a station on the air.  Instead, I chose to go back to school and to study law.

We shared another passion:  passenger train service.  For at least twenty-five years, Eliot and I have worked together to try to improve passenger train service in the state of Iowa and to convince the public that an investment in passenger trains will be very beneficial.  Eliot carried the title of Excursion Chair for the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers.  His business knowledge and acumen allowed the organization to operate a number of successful passenger train excursions.  His organizational skills resulted in safe, enjoyable projects. 

Eliot adopted email very quickly.  His numerous daily missives were always appreciated.  He was a clearing house for information and ideas.  He was willing to share.  He was not afraid to comment.  His criticisms were constructive.  His advice sage.

Eliot was one of the best editors with whom I have ever worked.  For a while I wrote a newsletter for the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers.  I'd prepare the newsletter, and then, send it by telephone modem to Eliot for review and critique.  Back, again, by 300 baud telephone modem, would come corrected copy.  I would marvel at the way he could suggest improving the copy to make it better.

Words that have been used to described Eliot have included persistent, persevering, committed, dedicated, difficult, and wise.  These are all good words, but I think that the best way to describe Eliot Keller is friend.  He was my friend.  My life, and the lives of many others, have been improved because of Eliot Keller.

Rest in peace, my friend.  Your mission here on earth is over; your final broadcast has been made.