Kenneth W. Keegan
1932 - 2020
Resident of Los Gatos
Kenneth W. Keegan, Beloved Husband, Father, Entrepreneur, Mentor, Painter, Singer, Optimist, and lover of life, died of natural causes on December 27, 2020 in Yountville, California where he lived with his wife Gretchen of almost 55-years. Born in Oakland, CA, on Feb. 27, 1932, Ken started his early life as a foster child on the streets of San Francisco where he learned that, "sometimes the only helping hand you get is at the end of your arm". As a child on Mission Street he shot marbles for food money and at 8-years old would sneak a ride on the back of a cable car to the Civic Center where he would shine shoes for a nickel. He moved in and out of foster homes but has fond memories fishing with grandpa Carl Johaan Vinther. Little Ken had a tough upbringing as a fatherless child. Good fortune came at age 12 when he joined the Flynn Ranch for Boys and Girls in Livermore, California. There he learned to plant, grow crops, raise livestock, chickens, goats and his prize winning pig, Rosie the State Champion. At age 16 he had to pay for his room and board and worked the night shift at the Dodge assembly plant in San Leandro then drove straight to Livermore High School to sprint across the lawn to make it to class by 8:20 am sharp! Some of his favorite memories of his youth came from his summer job where he worked as a bellhop at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite when he was 18 and 19.
In June 1949 he joined the Navy during the Korean War, flying off an aircraft carrier on a Torpedo Bomber Medium Plane in the Air Anti Submarine Squadron and received a Medal Of Honor. Ken liked routine and attributes "stick-to-it-ive-ness" to much of his success. His work ethic was tireless and his excitement contagious. Early on there was no mistaking that Ken was not only going to be a fighter and a survivor, but he was determined to make his mark.
After the Navy he attended San Jose State University where he graduated with a Business Degree. At age 21 he was Sales Manager and top salesman at Frontier Ford in San Jose. By 23 he had his own used car lot. Ken turned his love of cars and sales into a thriving business and successfully opened several car dealerships in the bay area including Ken Keegan Imported Cars, Stevens Creek Toyota, Volvo and British Motors in Santa Cruz. After creating sales, service and inventory innovations in the auto industry, Ken was looking for his next big opportunity and was an early investor in the San Jose Earthquakes Soccer Team. Convinced that soccer was going to be the next big thing he sold his car dealerships and went all in with his own professional soccer team, (the San Diego Jaws in 1976 and then moved the team to Nevada in 1977 to become the Las Vegas Quicksilvers). Soccer was a financial bust so he moved his family back to Los Gatos where he started all over again wholesaling cars.
In another turn of good fortune something caught his eye, which was an ad in an airline magazine for Nutri/System Weight Loss Centers franchise opportunities. As he turned 50 with nothing to lose and everything to gain, he gave it all he had to once again find success, and brought in limited partners to make his vision a reality. With expanded horizons in sight Ken and Gretchen opened Keegan Management Company, (KMC), where he honed his sales and marketing genius to become the largest and highest grossing franchisee in the world of the Nutri/System brand with 75 weight loss centers and 800 employees across the U.S. The KMC conglomerate grew in the late 80's as it went Public under the name of WORTH Corporation adding Mr. Coffee, Krause's Sofa Factory, Great Expectations and John Casablanca Modeling and Career Centers. Ken had become a leader and innovator in the now six-billion-dollar weight loss industry. He attended OPM Owners & Presidential Management, a 3 summer graduate program at Harvard Business School for CEO's to continue his education and business management expertise.
The world was watching Ken Keegan and right as he was about to achieve his financial dreams, there was a big market shift. Ken sold his weight loss centers to pursue other ventures. He never retired his dreams of finding the next big win. This drive fed his soul and gave him purpose to which he awoke each day wanting to share with his family and others. With a yellow pad and #2 pencil in hand, his ideas and optimism were endless.
Ken was generous with his time and energy. Ken and Gretchen were founders of the San Jose-Cleveland Ballet. They helped create the "On Pointe" audience subscription program. Ken was a key fundraiser for the San Jose State Spartan Foundation for several years. Ken was dedicated to supporting Men's homeless shelters, annually funding large quantities of necessary clothing and meals. He financed continuing education for his employees and the promotion of women in the workplace. At one point, Ken employed the largest number of women in management in the Bay Area.
After moving to Yountville in 2014, Ken, with wife Gretchen at his side, began to take painting classes, act in plays, sing in a chorus, play Senior Baseball and sing their duets of American Standards to whomever would listen. With Gretchen as his backbone and spiritual compass, as she is to so many, his energy was limitless, his ideas unending, and his commitment to love, God, family, and the well being of others ever present.
If you were lucky to be in Ken Keegan's orbit, you were in the presence of one of the greats. Period. A Legendary car dealer, Husband, Father, Grandfather, friend, innovator, and a true Renaissance man. Ken could strike up a conversation with anyone, he laughed often, and loved BIG. He was kind natured, fun loving and always ready for the next big adventure. Whether it was riding waves with his grandkids in Santa Cruz, Skiing with family in Tahoe, Boating in Sausalito, or dinner with family and friends in North Beach, he was always having a great time. He was full of charisma, had a true charm about him and he will be greatly missed. "You can't win if you don't play!" ...Kenneth Wallace Keegan.
Ken, beloved Husband is survived by his wife Gretchen, Married 55 years, Daughters Elizabeth Johnston (gone before), Kim Loquaci, Kira Lee Martin, son Kenneth Keegan Jr. and Ken's sister Mary Clever. He had 11 wonderful grandchildren: Evalyn, Olivia, Grace, Keegan, Kirsten, Cooper, Carlton, Chaser, Colton, Kevin and Mitchel.
Due to the COVID-19 Virus, no memorial is planned at this time. To post your condolences and share your memories about Ken and/or to make a donation in lieu of flowers to the charity of your choice
, please join his friends and family at www.legacy.com View the online memorial for Kenneth W. Keegan