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Judge Robert M. Keenan, Jr., of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by his family on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, at the age of 82. He died from complications of FSH muscular dystrophy. He was born in Mt. Carmel on December 5, 1936, to Robert M. Keenan, Sr. and Marian (Farley) Keenan.
Judge Keenan was a hard worker beginning in middle school, including work as a paper boy, for Heater’s Drug store, and for Cliff’s drive-in. He worked pit stops at a nearby midget car track. Bob attended Mt. Carmel High School, where he played tuba in the band and was active in various choral groups. He also played football all four years. Bob was inducted into the MCHS Hall of Fame in 2007.
Bob was inspired by his MCHS band director, Floyd “Pappy” Perkins, to study music in college. He went to college at Indiana State Teacher’s College (now Indiana State University) in Terre Haute, IN. While at Indiana State, he was a member of the Symphonic Band, the College Chorus, and the Men’s Glee Club. Bob was also a member of the marching band and the basketball band. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. He was also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity. At Bob’s 80th birthday celebration, members of the fraternity attending its national convention were meeting at the same restaurant, and serenaded him with their song “Hail Sinfonia.”
Bob graduated from Indiana State in 1958 with a degree in music education, and obtained his master’s degree in 1959. Bob then attended Indiana University, where he earned 49 hours toward a Ph.D. in music theory. While a graduate student at Indiana State, Bob was the assistant director of the marching and concert bands, and director of the basketball band. He was a Collegium Musicum member at IU, a group that performed ancient music. Bob completed eight years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves, and during that time was a member of the 451st Division Army Reserve Band.
While a freshman at Indiana State, he met his future wife Elizabeth Harper, from Terre Haute, who was also a music student at Indiana State. They were married on August 24, 1958. He later taught music as a band director in Jackson MI, Waynetown IN, and Rensselaer IN, before deciding to leave teaching to attend law school.
Bob attended Valparaiso University School of Law, Valparaiso IN, where he graduated first in his class in 1972. He served as Editor-In-Chief of the Law Review. Judge Keenan practiced in the private sector, and also served as special assistant attorney general for the State of Illinois from 1979-1980. He served as City Attorney in Mt. Carmel from 1974 to 1980. Bob taught the real estate law and practice class for real estate brokers at Wabash Valley College from 1973 to 1997. He was sworn in as the Resident Circuit Judge for Wabash County, Second Judicial Circuit, on December 1, 1980. He remained in that position until his retirement on December 2, 2002. Bob also wrote a weekly column called “Courthouse Briefs” for the Daily Republican Register from 1991 to 2000. He wrote 465 columns.
Bob had a great sense of humor and was known for his many hobbies, which he shared with his family. He loved filming and video-taping. He bought a Brownie 8 millimeter movie camera in high school and spent the rest of his life filming family and other events. Bob also loved auto racing, particularly open-wheel dirt track racing and Indy Car racing. If you were to stop by on any given day, you could very well find yourself invited in to watch a vintage midget race and have a spirited conversation about all the early drivers of the day.
Bob’s children also benefitted from the fact that he was an early adopter of video games. Bob purchased one of the first Pong and Atari video games and lovingly shared them with his family and friends. Bob was proud of his Irish heritage and of the fact that he came from a family of railroaders. He loved baseball and football and was a life-long fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears.
Bob had a passion for all music that he considered good. He arranged several pieces of music for band. Bob appeared in musical productions at Wabash Valley College, including playing the character Fagin in the musical “Oliver.” He organized and performed with a recorder quartet called “The Courtly Consort.” In 1986, a group of singers who had performed in WVC musicals was asked to sing for the 25th anniversary of WVC. This group not only completed that “gig,” but continued performing as “Mulberry Jam” for over 25 years, meeting every Tuesday night at Bob and Liz’s house for rehearsals and conversation.
Bob was a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He was a member of Elks BPOE 715 in Mt. Carmel.
Bob is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth Harper Keenan. He is also survived by his four children, Leslie Kramer (Ted) of Anchorage AK; Rob Keenan (Andrea) of Buford GA; Mary Koch of Evansville IN; and Sarah Keenan of Mt. Carmel. He is also survived by his grandchildren Grace, Olivia, and Emma Kramer; Alex and Michelle Fontaine and Elizabeth, Nicolas, and Robby Keenan; and Lily Koch. His grandchildren could not have had a more dedicated and loving grandfather. He is survived by three sisters, Sandy Sexton of El Cajon CA; Pat Tomala of East Lyme CT, and Susan Keenan of Harrisburg IL; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister, Judy Childers, and his Aunt Jaunita Keenan.
A Prayer Service will be held on Friday, January 11, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. at Short-Cunningham Funeral Home, 527 N. Mulberry Street, in Mt. Carmel, Illinois. Visitation will follow from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 125 W. 5th Street, in Mt. Carmel. Burial will occur at a later date at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery.
Memorials can be sent to St. Mary’s Catholic School, 417 Chestnut Street, Mt. Carmel, Illinois 62863, or to the FSH Society, 450 Bedford Street, Lexington, MA 02420.
Condolences may be made online at www.short-cunninghamfh.com