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Daniel R. Keller

1951 - 2019
Daniel R. Keller Obituary
(News story) OTTAWA LAKE - Daniel R. Keller, longtime manager of his community's farmer-owned grain elevator who was credited with adding services that helped the cooperative survive and thrive, died Tuesday in Franciscan Care Center, Sylvania. He was 68.

He was recuperating from an infection, his wife, Suzanne, said. He became a resident of Charter Senior Living of Oak Openings in Sylvania after suffering a stroke in October, 2016, at work.

"It was a very serious stroke. He fought his way back," his wife said, "but he wasn't back to where he could come home."

After stints at two other Michigan co-ops - in Jasper and Deerfield - Mr. Keller came to the Ottawa Lake Co-op Elevator in 1978 as a grain handler.

"At a small co-op, you do everything," his wife said. That continued when he became manager several years later.

"He never stopped being a very hard worker," she said. "Instead of sitting in his office behind the desk, he was the worker bee, outside, leading his help. He was doing everything he asked his workers to do. He could see potential in people."

Mr. Keller had a two-year degree in elevator management from Michigan State University. He'd farmed and been around farming. That specialty allowed him to stay connected to farming and community, his wife said.

Elevators stored grain and often sold seed and feed and fertilizer. Under his watch, the Ottawa Lake Co-op added services such as custom application of fertilizer. And those services appealed to farmers who were working more ground than their fathers and grandfathers had.

"At the time he took over, [the co-op] couldn't get a bank loan to keep working," said Sam Walter, president of the Ottawa Lake Co-op board of directors. "He had great common sense and great vision for the future. He did things that a lot of other people didn't do that put the elevator on its feet."

As a result, the co-op serves farmers in a four-county area, Mr. Walter said.

"He ran that business like it was his, and that's what made it special," Mr. Walter said.

He was born April 15, 1951, to Alice and James Keller. Before his stroke, he lived in Monroe County's Whiteford Township, just down the road from where he grew up. He was a 1969 graduate of Whiteford Agricultural High School, where he excelled in football, basketball, and baseball.

He supported the school's athletic boosters through donations and by playing host to fund-raisers, and by cheering players on at games. He was a 2010 inductee to Whiteford's athletic hall of fame.

"I think he was pretty taken aback," his wife said. "I bragged about him more than he did."

He and his wife liked to take excursions in search of collectibles, although he liked home and worried about the co-op too much to be gone more than three days. He had John Deere memorabilia. He found Sinclair Oil's brontosaurus mascot, Dino - 12 feet of molded plastic - and attached it to a barn overhang.

"Not everybody has a dinosaur on their roof," his wife said.

Mr. Keller had no children of his own, but he never considered his wife's children to be "stepsons," she said. And to them, "he was a big brother, always there for them, gave them advice if they asked, but never told them what to do," she said.

Surviving are his wife, the former Suzanne Bischoff, whom he married Aug. 18, 1991; stepsons Chris, Doug, and Jason Heerdegen; sister, Carol Johnson; brother, Jerry Keller, and six stepgrandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2-9 p.m. Sunday and from 1-3 p.m. Monday at the Reeb Funeral Home, Sylvania, where services will begin at 3 p.m. Monday.

The family suggests tributes to the Dundee FFA or a .

This is a news story by Mark Zaborney. Contact him at [email protected] or 419-724-6182.
Published in The Blade on Sept. 8, 2019
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