Amherst Magazine
Keith W. Adams '58
 
Keith Adams 1
Keith and Vicky, 2006

Keith was the first person I met at Amherst. We were adjoining floor mates on James third floor and friends for life—a life that sadly ended Dec. 1, 2008, the result of lung cancer.

Keith, whose father was Marion K. Adams ’23, said he was from Nebraska but that he’d gone to a school he was sure I’d never heard of—Hoosac in Hoosick, N.Y.  I’d been born in Hoosick Falls so I did know it. That started our friendship.

What really made that friendship were Keith’s core values and good humor. Much of that he traced to his growing up in Omaha, where he met Vicky when they were 13, leading to a marriage in 1957 that was the center of their lives for 51 years.

Keith got his M.B.A. at Columbia. His first job was at Grey Advertising in account management (he convinced me to join him there in 1962). But his heart wasn’t really in it; in 1963, he and Vicky packed and drove cross country in a VW microbus with four kids all under four in tow.

They settled in Portland, Ore., where Keith worked for Donald M. Drake Construction, helping market real estate developments. As a side venture, they tried their hand running a commercial apple and pear orchard in Hood River, Ore., for over a decade. Keith also served on the board of trustees at Catlin Gable School, a private K-12 prep school.

In 1972, they moved to Sunriver, Ore., and Keith continued to work in real estate sales and development. He also was a volunteer fireman and vice president of the homeowners association. (He wore a WWII air raid warden’s helmet to its meetings.) In 1975, they moved to La Jolla, Calif., continuing Keith’s real estate work.

Keith and Vicky made sure they traveled to see their kids and eleven grandchildren each year, up in Alaska, northern California or over in Maine. Keith had just finished designing and building a complete outbuilding in which he could do his woodworking projects, like the wheeled wooden animals he donated to our 50th Reunion auction.

 
Keith Adams 2
Louetta and Lou Eastman, Allen and Whitney Clark,
Keith and Vicky "working out" May 1998 at Pet Kunz's
dude ranch, nicknamed by Keith as
"The Rawah Health Club."

Keith helped create the Rev. Meredith B. Wood Foundation in 1999 to raise scholarship funds for Hoosac. Headmaster Richard Lomuscio says Keith “worked tirelessly on this project, getting almost 100 percent support from alumni from 1941to 1957.”

During the half century he knew Keith, Rick de Filippi ’57 recalls that his Phi Gam brother never really changed: “Keith’s outward behavior evolved from what his grandkids might call ‘totally cool’ to the open displays of warmth, empathy and generosity of spirit that greeted me at every contact. But all those wonderful characteristics were always there . . . The summer I graduated; Keith lived at my parents’ house in New York. I’m sure my Italian-born father could not locate Omaha on a map and had certainly never encountered any of its indigenous peoples; but consistently, his first statement returning home from work was, ‘Where’s Keith?’ followed by offering him a drink. Then the rest of us got a greeting.”

From the moment I met him, I could tell Keith had a demeanor and directness devoid of artifice of any kind. His openness and friendliness was contagious. Pete Kunz told me, “Keith always made a difference for folks around him.”

Keith Adams 3
Some of the wooden animals Keith created.
 Rick adds, “Whenever we were gathered in a crowd—at Amherst or at a beachside restaurant in La Jolla—perhaps what I remember best is getting Keith to go out of control into his high-pitched laugh. Everybody within earshot ended up in the same uncontrollable state. It was typical of his infectious good nature; I’m truly saddened to realize I won’t be able to experience it again.”

After the Eastmans, Davenports, Adams and Clarks spent time in Tuscany a few years back, Lou Eastman said, “I forgot just how really funny Keith is.” His humor was never at anyone’s expense; he just picked up on all the little humors we all display in our day-to-day lives, then remarked on them in his unique way, and that indeed did send him and others into fits of laughter.

In addition to Vicky, Keith is survived by his brother, Daniel W. Adams, of North Canton, Ohio; daughters Kristin Woolley of Ross, Calif., and Tori Rasche of York, Maine; son Joel Adams of Anchorage, Alaska; and eleven grandchildren. Keith and Vicky’s first son, named after Keith, predeceased him in 1982.

Rest in peace, Keith.

—Allen Clark ’58

 

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