Walter Nicholas “Walt” Keller, 61, a longtime Crookston, MN resident, died unexpectedly late Sunday afternoon, December 16, 2012, in Barnesville, MN after becoming ill while traveling. Walt, his wife, Margee, and their family, were returning home after celebrating early Christmases with their families in Richmond and Paynesville, MN.
Walt was born on October 25, 1951 in Richmond, MN, the oldest of eleven children of the union of Harold and Mary Jane (Roering) Keller. He grew up in Regal, MN, where he was baptized and confirmed at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church; attended school in nearby Belgrade, MN and graduated from Belgrade High School in 1969. He furthered his education by attending the Alexandria (MN) School of Law Enforcement, earning an associate degree and his state licensure as a peace officer. Walt enlisted in the U.S. Army on September 8, 1970 and served as an MP in Germany. For his service to his country he was awarded the National Defense Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and a Sharpshooter’s Badge. Following his honorable discharge on April 28, 1972 he returned home. A few months later, on July 1st, Walt was united in marriage to Margaret Evarista Hemmesch at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Richmond, MN. Walt and Margee made their first home in Marshall, where he was employed by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department. In 1976 the couple moved to Crookston when he accepted a position as deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO). Law enforcement may be one of the hardest professions to be in, but Walt always kept things calm, using patience, reasoning, and experience to guide his decision making. In 1983 Walt and Margee were blessed by the birth of a daughter, Sarah. In his tenure at the PCSO he served in many capacities, including Investigator, Sergeant, Chief Deputy, Assistant Medical Examiner, and was a certified Polygraph Operator. Walt retired as a full-time duty for the PCSO in 2004, yet continued to work part-time until 2011. Walt loved farming and in 2004, he began hauling beets seasonally for the Kiel Corporation. He had been courageously battling cancer for the past year.
He and Margee were active members of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parish. Walt also held membership in the Knights of Columbus, and his family was honored as a past recipient of the ‘Family of the Year’ award. He and Margee were also past honorees by the City of Crookston as Volunteers of the Year. Walt served on the board of the local Salvation Army chapter, was a Glenmore Foundation Board Member, was a past-president of the Crookston Rotary Club, was a past-president of the Toastmasters Club, and had belonged to the Crookston Eagles Aerie #873 for many years. He was extremely patriotic and proud to be an organizer of the annual Memorial Day services, and was also instrumental in the establishment of the Memorial Walkway located on the east end of Crookston. Walt was currently serving as the American Legion Gambling Manager, was a past-commander of Nels T. Wold American Legion Post #20, and currently the chaplain for the 9th District. He was the treasurer of the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans and served in the same capacity for the Crookston Veterans Council. Professionally, Walt was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). He was a devoted husband, proud father and grandfather, and a great brother, uncle and friend, who will be remembered with great love and affection.
Grateful to have had Walt in their lives are his beloved wife and best friend for over forty years, Margee; his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, Sarah, Jerrod, and Jennika Reese of Crookston; 6 brothers: Nick (Janet) of Richmond, MN, John (Cathy) of St. Joseph, MN, Victor (Debbie) of Hawick, MN, Ron (Sherry) of Belgrade, MN, and Dennis (Connie) and Allen (Shari) of Regal, MN; and 3 sisters: Doris (Keith) Sieben of Rockville, MN, Alice (David) Hiltner of Hawick, and Helen Hiltner of Paynesville, MN. He leaves 5 brothers-in-law including Jerome Hemmesch of the VA Hospital in St. Cloud, Thomas (Renae) Hemmesch, George (Joni) Hemmesch, Victor (Beth) Hemmesch, and James (Sheila) Hemmesch, all of Richmond, MN; 5 sisters-in-law: Ann Lucas of Wichita Falls, TX, Barbara (Matthew) Walz and Linda (Robert) Schmitz of Cold Spring, MN, Sue (Pete) Dingman of St. Martin, MN, and Joyce (James) Backes of Richmond. He also leaves behind many nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and friends, including Jerry and Toots Terhaar, uncle and aunt, who were instrumental in Walt’s life. Walt was preceded in death by his parents, Harold and Mary Jane; sister, Carol Keller; parents-in-law, Harold and Leona Hemmesch; brothers-in-law: Linus Hiltner, Michael Hemmesch, Elmer Hemmesch, David Stang, Robert Lucas; and nephew, Jonathan Hiltner. Blessed be Walter’s memory.
The Mass of Christian Burial and Celebration of Walter Nicholas Keller’s Life will be held at 2:00 p.m., Friday, December 21, 2012, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Crookston. Visitation will be at the Cathedral on Thursday from 5-7:00 p.m., with a 7:00 p.m. prayer service and memory sharing, and visitation also for one hour prior to the funeral service Friday. Military Honors will be provided by the Crookston Veterans Council. Interment will be in the Calvary Cemetery, Crookston. The Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home is assisting with funeral arrangements. Memorials may be given in Walt’s name to: American Cancer Society Hope Lodge, 411 2nd Street NW, Rochester, MN 55901; The Salvation Army of Polk County, PO Box 619, Crookston, MN 56716; or American Legion Post #20, 102 South Ash Street, Crookston, MN 56716. Online registry: stenshoelhouske.com