Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Priest retired to a busy Norwalk youth ministry

NORWALK, Ohio - The Rev. Harvey Michael Keller, the retired pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Monroeville, Ohio, who became involved in youth ministry at the St. Paul parish in Norwalk following his retirement, died Tuesday in his residence at the Carriage House assisted-living center here. He was 95.

Father Keller, a Sylvania native, died of congestive heart failure, said a great-niece, Betsy Boyle.

Ordained in 1945, Father Keller was an assistant pastor at Immaculate Conception Church and then at Little Flower Parish, both in Toledo, before receiving his first pastorate in 1960. He started as pastor of St. Stephen Church, St. Stephen, Ohio, and St. Aloysius Church, Republic, Ohio, for seven years before transferring to St. Joseph's in Monroeville.

As a parish priest, Father Keller thrived on helping people in general, Mrs. Boyle said.

But he truly came into his own after he retired in 1980 and became a resident priest at St. Paul's, where he worked with the students at the parish high school.

Father Keller was a fixture at school athletic events, she said, and escorted St. Paul's principal, Valerie French, to the prom.

In 1994, St. Paul's dedicated its new gymnasium to him.

"He just fed off the energy of the teenagers," Mrs. Boyle said. "He always said he'd rather wear out than rust out."

The Rev. Frank Kehres, the pastor at St. Paul's, said the only change that retirement brought to Father Keller's life was that he no longer had to deal with mundanities, like attending meetings.

He continued working full-time until just weeks before his death.

"He was a very positive, dedicated, enthusiastic servant of God," Father Kehres said. Along with being a spiritual presence for young people, the pastor said, Father Keller actively promoted the priesthood and sisterhood and counseled seminarians.

While he studied bookkeeping at DeSales College, Toledo, after graduating from Sylvania's Burnham High School, Mrs. Boyle said her great-uncle had always fixated on the goal of becoming a priest.

His 10 years of accounting work at Kroger and Lion store offices in Toledo provided him with the savings he needed to go to the seminary, she said.

"He always felt he had a calling," she said.

Involved with youth as he was, Father Keller felt bad about the child-abuse scandals that arose in the Toledo diocese and elsewhere, and was careful to avoid any appearance of impropriety, Mrs. Boyle said.

He had "very traditional beliefs," she said, but noted he also had a dry wit and was "a cut-up" at times.

Father Keller enjoyed extensive travel, accomplished in part by accompanying pilgrimage tours as a chaplain, which provided him with expense-paid trips to Europe and the Holy Land.

Father Keller was preceded in death by a younger brother.

A Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. today, followed by visitation at St. Paul Catholic Church from 11 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. A prayer service will begin in the church at 7:30.

A funeral Mass will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the church with the Most Rev. Leonard Blair, bishop of the Toledo diocese, presiding.

The church suggests tributes to the St. Paul Faithful Stewards of Tomorrow Building Campaign.

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