CLARKS SUMMIT — Francis James Keenan, 28, of Newton Ransom Boulevard, Clarks Summit, died on Dec. 31, 2013, after summiting Mt. Aconcagua, nearly 23,000 feet, in Argentina.
Francis was the son of Diane Lozinger-Keenan and the late James Keenan. Frank was an excellent high-altitude mountain climber and had been doing it for 5 1/2 years. He summited Mt. Rainier, Mt. Cotopaxi and Mt. Cayambe, Mt. Orizaba, Mt. Baker, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Adams and the so-called suicide mountain, Mt. Chimborazo, at 22,680 feet. His final and last climb, and also his dream, was Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Andes. As he summited all his mountains, the very last one took his life and his climbing partner, Jarod VonRueden.
He was a person who loved what he did, going from country to country climbing mountains in the free world. This was his love. He trained at Brown's Gym in Clarks Summit every day for years, not missing one day. He loved running. He ran 10 to 12 miles every day as part of his training. He was very committed and dedicated to his dream.
He graduated in 2003 from Abington Heights High School. During his high school years Frank was a member of the National Honor Society. He was a scholar. He was part of Rotary Leadership Camp, as well as student of the month. He competed in National History Day regional and state competitions.
His papers on his family members — his grandfather, Edmund Carr, who served in World War II, his father, James Keenan, who served in the U.S. Navy in the Philippines and his uncle, James Carr, who served in the U.S. Marines in Vietnam — won him his first place in a national competition, as he did his research on the Byzantine Empire. He wrote an essay on his grandfather's World War II experiences that was published in a book entitled "Home Town Heroes" by Tom Brokaw.
Frank was a man with great intellectual capacity and his academic discipline made him the great person he was. He was committed to giving back some of what he received. At the age of 13 he was invited to speak at the state capital by State Rep. Harry Readshaw. The topic was the Civil War. With no notes before him he spoke fluently for more than five minutes before senators, congressmen and state representatives. He received a standing ovation.
His high school activities were many. He was a member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, The National Geographic Society, marching band and student council. He was presented with the Prudential Spirit Community Awards, outstanding effort award in Honors Global Studies, was candidate for class vice president, a member of the National Academy of Science, took first place in National History Day, was a Literature Grand Champion, was in Who's Who, earned a Renaissance Gold Award and an outstanding effort award in AP American history.
On June 18, 2002, Frank was sent a letter from Admiral William J. Crowe Jr., stating it was with great pleasure to inform him that he was chosen to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum on Defense Intelligence and Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. He also asked to be allowed to offer his personal congratulations on Frank's achievements. He said, "your parents must be very proud of you."
The decision to nominate Frank was based on a scholastic recommendation awarded by Thomas McArdle of Abington Heights High School, who certified Frank as a student of high academic standing with leadership potential and intent on pursuing a career related to national security and foreign affairs. We are sure Frank will be one who will contribute to the special strength and character of the Forum. As a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and Ambassador to the United Kingdom, it was signed, Sincerely, William J. Crowe Jr., Admiral U.S. Navy Senior Councilor to the National Youth Leadership Forum.
Francis was also a full-time student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he was studying for his master's in sociology and psychology. Frank was a great person who not many people really knew. He went about doing what he thought was important, never asking for recognition for anything he did. He always said, "I'm doing in life what makes me happy. It is important for me to respect myself and that's all that matters."
Frank's 21-year old niece wrote a quote: "to my uncle Frankie, climbing is as close as you can get to flying and you traded your hiking boots in for a pair of wings. We will miss you. Fly high Uncle Frankie and rest in peace."
Frank had four regular climbing partners that loved to climb at high altitudes together and they formed such a strong bond that they were like brothers, Scott Barrillo, St. Augustine, Fla., and Stacy Kurtz, Cal and Sean, all of Huber, Calif. One would give their life for the other. The rule of climbing is you never leave your partner behind; you try to save their life before your own.
To my amazing remarkable son, everywhere you journeyed in life, you went with my love by your side. Forever it will be with you. Truly, joyfully and more meant than words could ever say. You are the joy of my life, the source of my deepest memories, the inspiration for my fondest wishes and the sweetest presence life could ever give. As a mother, I will always love you son, and couldn't be more proud of you. God be with you my son. I love you and until we meet again, I'll hold you tightly in my arms and my heart until we meet again. I love you, Mom.
Francis is survived by his mother, Diane Lozinger-Keenan, with whom he resided; sisters, Candis Nesgoda, White Haven, Diane Carson, Scranton; a brother, Jeffrey Lozinger, Clarks Summit; half-brothers, Jimmy, Tommy and Paul Keenan, all of New York; his uncle, Edmund Carr and his wife, Darlene, Clarks Summit, who Frank adored. He thought him to be the foundation of our family, always there for anyone or anything. Also surviving are an aunt who lives in Minnesota, Charlotte Boyle; nieces, nephews and cousins; his best friends and climbing partners till the end; and a family friend that he has known since he was born, Christine Blumenfield.
Frank will be sadly missed and never forgotten.
He was preceded in death by a brother, John "Duke" Lozinger; maternal grandparents, Clara and Edmund Carr; his loving aunt, Janet Howells; and an uncle, James Carr.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lawrence E. Young Funeral Home, 418 S. State St., Clarks Summit. Family and friends may call from noon until the time of the service at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Francis' memory to Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Project, c/o Rep. Harry A. Readshaw, Room 221, Irvis Office Building, P.O. Box 202036, Harrisburg, PA 17120-2036.