Jack Ward Keller, family man, Black & Veatch-er, Jayhawker, Bronco fan, Yankees fan, and a fighter to the end, passed away late Wednesday, Jan. 24th, at the age of 93. Jack was born on July 13, 1930, to Marge Lucille (Thayer) and A. W. Jack Keller in the small town of Ottawa, KS. In the summer of 1948, upon graduation from Ottawa High School, the Korean war started. Jack, then 17, joined the Kansas National Guard. While never deployed, he rose to the rank of Sergeant First Class in charge of the survey section. His interest in surveying led to civil engineering.
After two years at Ottawa University, he transferred to KU. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from KU in 1953. Around this time, he met his wife Joyce on a blind double date; ironically Joyce was not his intended date. He took a job at the privately held engineering firm of Black & Veatch, and married Joyce Zacher in 1955. They shared 50+ years of B&V (Joyce was the quintessential corporate wife!), travel, kids and love, until Joyce passed in 2003.
Jack served B&V until his retirement at 65, rising from young engineer all the way to Senior Partner. He worked at BV’s Country Club Plaza office, then left to help open the first branch office for the company in Colorado. In Colorado, he helped expand the work to WY, NM and western KS. He then became the CO office head, expanding to Las Vegas, and opening another successful office there. He finished his B&V career in Kansas City, managing Kansas City projects and was the Assistant Manager of the firm’s Environmental Division. He was a tough, demanding boss that believed in results, and he succeeded year after year.
Jack leaves behind, his children, J. Denise (Eric Herbst), Dr. Mark (Dr. Crista Keller), John (Melissa Keller), grandchildren, Jaclyn, Matt, Andrew, Kate, Jackson and Megan, and great-grand Adaline, and his long-time friend Jan Ashmore (also a B&V retiree).
Jack was a demanding father, and anything less than success was not an option, in all facets – scholastically, physically and in business. He encouraged and loved watching his sons’ sports activities. He reveled in his kid's school successes. He then proudly watched each child as they reached their own potential, Denise breaking glass ceilings in advertising at McCann-Erickson, Mark – his oldest son to become a very successful cardiologist, and his youngest son John – following his big footsteps at B&V, be named an officer at B&V before Jack’s passing.
Family was everything to Jack. He celebrated all his kids getting married and each of his kids giving Jack and Joyce a boy and a girl grandchild. He was big on family fun and took his entire family on amazing vacations to many beaches so spouses and cousins would all know each other. In addition to his retirement travels, he supported his passions of being a big sport fan, going to games and conventions to secure autographs and meeting his heroes – Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, John Elway, Dick Butkus (Joyce’s fav) to name a few. He even attended the last game in the old Yankee stadium in the Bronx. Jack also did a lot of volunteer work to fill his time, including delivering for Meals on Wheels, tutoring/teaching math at JCCC, and working for the OPPD 8 years – typing in police reports. He kept up with his love of photography but sadly his magician interest (yes, he was a magician!) was retired. He spent his time between his condos in Frisco, CO and Port Aransas, TX, and Overland Park. He stayed in touch socializing with his B&V family and past clients and spent lots of time with his kid’s extended families until the end.