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John Robert McDaniel Keith

1951 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
John Robert McDaniel Keith
July 15, 1951- Dec 21, 2017 age 66
Santa Cruz
John Keith was born in Pomona to Virginia Keith and the late Donald Keith. When he was 10, his family moved to the Santa Cruz mountains. Here he gained his first dog Blazer, a Honda 50, lifelong friends, and many of his fondest memories. He went to work at a young age, picking prunes and bay leaves in the summers. As a parting gift to Loma Prieta School, John and an accomplice climbed two tall redwood trees on campus, shot an arrow with a line across, and strung up a difficult-to-remove banner that read, simply, "Prune"-- a mild and highly specific insult in the lingo of the time. Years later he would recall, blue eyes sparkling, that the banner waved in the mountain air for days on end.
John enrolled in the 5th class of UCSC, commuting from an off-the-grid cabin on Bear Creek Road. He majored in economics and minored in Russian, which he later deployed to woo his future wife Kimlin McDaniel. While he completed all graduation requirements, due to a failure to double-check the time of the ceremony, and some parking tickets (outstanding to this day!) John never received his diploma.
While at UCSC, John worked a repetitive job at a candle factory in Harvey West. To stave off boredom, he taught himself electronics and constructed a device to perform his duties. Though his invention required endless maintenance, he parlayed his knowledge into a job at Atari in the early days of Pong. He was summarily fired when he tried to unionize the workforce.
Throughout his 20s, John pieced together work while becoming involved in local alternative journalism. As a staff writer and photographer for The Santa Cruz Independent he was arrested for photographing the bust of campers at Scott Creek. When the Independent was sold and shuttered, John helped start the Phoenix, a monthly newspaper.
Continuing to support the Phoenix after hours, John returned to electronics and started to teach himself programming. A voracious learner, he began as a technician and eventually became a senior software engineer. He lent his talents to Mountain Computer, Ellipsys, Real Chip, and finally Creative Labs ATC. One of his last big projects was designing an active cooling system for the home solar inverter. To achieve this, he taught himself circuit board design and plastic molding, and created a logo and website.
Social justice was a core value for John. He met his wife Kimlin at People for a Nuclear Free Future, went to Nicaragua with the first international brigade, and was involved with the Coalition for Nicaragua. He refused stock options and gave away others when he felt management was screwing his colleagues. He also had a passion for safe, non-polluting energy, becoming the first in the neighborhood to get rooftop solar and an electric car - a little GEM flatbed truck best described as 'an eco-friendly, street-legal golf cart.'
John was a hands-on father to his children, from changing diapers to taking up the violin and building a go-kart to complement their hobbies. He often said to Kimlin that Kaitlin and Dean were "the best thing we ever did." His greatest joy was to witness the primo young adults they have become.
John loved to spend time in the garage woodworking, building a beautiful walnut cabinet for his first home-built computer, a bed for his children, and many RC airplanes. As he settled into middle age, sailing joined bicycling and motorcycling as his mode of experiencing the natural beauty of Santa Cruz County and beyond. His crowning achievement was building a beautiful 15-foot skiff, which he christened "Penny Verse" in homage to Professor Page Smith and Penny University.
Eight years ago, John found himself unable to work, leading to a diagnosis of early-onset dementia at the age of 58. He faced his lot with candor and bravery, and met many remarkable people in this struggle. With his family he planned for the worst and lived his best life. As a volunteer, he biked a 200-pound trailer of vegetables weekly from Freewheelin' Farm up the coast, walked dogs at the shelter, helped build the Emma McCrary trail, and picked up trash with the Leveelies. He biked and walked many miles, often with his beloved dogs, caregivers, and friends including Victoria Suarez and Daniel Cristancho. The Cabrillo Stroke Center and outings with Cindy's Celebrations enriched his life. John's brain will go to the UCSF Memory Center to further research into the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's Disease.
John is survived by Kimlin, his wife and partner of 39 years, daughter Kaitlin of Oakland, son Dean of Taipei, mother Ginny of Santa Cruz, brother Jim (Tracy) of Oregon, sister Kathleen Russ (Dave) of the Summit area, and loving, frantic canine companion Heidi. He is forever imprinted on the hearts of the McDaniel family and his many friends. We are grateful to all the people who helped John have a great quality of life including the staff of Soquel Leisure Villa and Hospice of Santa Cruz County, who helped him to pass peacefully with us at home.
In his honor, John's family invites you to join them in supporting a project that combines his founding principles -- the "John Keith Solar Future Fund," which will bring solar energy to the Resource Center for Nonviolence, an organization he supported for over 40 years (tinyurl.com/RCNVSolar or 612 Ocean Street Santa Cruz CA 95060). Next spring we will celebrate our guy John when the Center's photovoltaic system is installed and dedicated. We also welcome any stories or memories you have to share at
[email protected]
But since it falls unto my lot/ That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call/ Good night and joy be with you all

View the online memorial for John Robert McDaniel Keith
Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Dec. 24, 2017
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