BEDFORD - A native of New Hampshire, Robert Renker Keller Sr., Chairman Emeritus of the Board and Founder of The Keller Group of Companies, died Monday, June 25, 2012, at the age of 98.
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Born in Manchester November 5, 1913, he was the son of Rudolf and Irma (Renker) Keller. He was a resident of Bedford since 1965.
Mr. Keller graduated from Manchester West High School in 1932 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1936 and graduated from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in 1937.
While in high school, he was a member of the state champion basketball and football teams, and as captain of the track team he won many individual medals competing in the high hurdles and the broad jump. At college he competed with the Dartmouth track team. Later in life he played badminton at the Calumet Club, became a diehard downhill skier and cruised summers in the Gulf of Maine.
Entrepreneur and inventor, he started his career at the Hermsdorf Manufacturing Company where he become General Manager. By 1941 he had converted this store fixture firm into a defense plant that manufactured molded plywood and wood composites for airplanes, mine sweepers and signal core masts. Toward the end of WW II he started his first company, Keller Products, which designed, engineered and manufactured composite architectural materials for the aircraft, building and furniture industries. Eventually he developed the insulated, light transmitting panel, named Kalwall®, which became familiar to architects worldwide. The Kalwall panel had solar properties which led to the development of active and passive solar collectors to counter the energy shortage of the early 1970s. His ingenuity led to over 30 patents and recognition for his pioneering work in adhesives, structural plastics, composites and solar energy devices. Today The Keller Group of Companies, which employs over 650 people, including four sons and two of his granddaughters, is composed of the following firms: Kalwall Corporation, which designs, engineers, manufactures and markets translucent insulating building panels and aluminum surrounds for massive wall, skylight and roof systems; Keller Companies, Inc., a management and research and development firm; Keller Products, Inc., which manufactures molded plywood and extruded plastic parts for the building, furniture and musical instrument industries; Solar Components Corp., which engineers, builds and markets solar products and tanks for aquaculture; Structures Unlimited, Inc., which designs, engineers, manufactures and erects buildings and Robert R. Keller & Associates, Inc., which is the accounting and services company. Another company, Span Systems, Inc., is a firm which designs, engineers, fabricates, markets and erects plastic coated, fiberglass, steel cable, tension structures, and is associated with The Keller Group of Companies.
Mr. Keller served on the Board of Directors of the following organizations: The Manchester National Bank, Manchester Trust, Bank of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Port Authority and the Offshore Lobster Co. He was an active member of the Building Research Institute and a member of the Society of Plastic Industries, American Society of Plastic Engineers, Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering, American Solar Energy Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Planetary Society. In 1999 Mr. Keller was awarded the Passive Pioneer Solar Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and was made a Fellow of ASES the following year.
His social memberships included the Portsmouth Yacht Club, the Manchester Country Club, the Manchester Dartmouth Club and the Calumet Club. At Dartmouth he became a Tri-Kap fraternity brother.
He was predeceased by his first wife, Dorothy (Forbes) Keller, who died in 1993, and by his sister, Roberta K. Hickok, who died in 2003.
Family members include his wife, Sandra (Bowles) Keller, of Bedford; four sons and their wives, Richard and Jacqueline of Bedford; Bruce and Cynthia of Manchester; Robert, Jr. and Susan of Bow; Scott and Shelly of Bedford; nine grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren; one niece and three nephews.
Calling hours will be held Monday, July 2, from 4 to 6 p.m. and also Tuesday, July 3, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the memorial service beginning at 1 p.m. in Goodwin Funeral Home, 607 Chestnut Street, Manchester.
In lieu of flowers, kindly make donations in Mr. Keller's memory to Community Hospice House, 210 Naticook Road, Merrimack, NH 03054.
Please go to www.goodwinfh.com to sign the online guestbook.
Goodwin Funeral Home
607 Chestnut Street Manchester, NH 03104
Published in The Concord Monitor on June 28, 2012