PAULDING, Ohio -- Paul D. Keeler, whose concern for justice and his community and a competitive drive guided a long career in law enforcement and criminal justice, was killed Sunday when he was struck by a passing car while repairing his pickup. He was 63.
Mr. Keeler was stopped on U.S. 127 near State Rt. 613 in Paulding Township after his truck lost a wheel. He was pronounced dead at Paulding County Hospital.
He led the Paulding County probation office from 2001 to 2006. In 2005 and 2006, the office was named the best in Ohio, Sheriff Dave Harrow said.
Mr. Keeler was police chief of his native Paulding from 1983 to 1995 and was known for his advances in officer training. He was a sheriff's deputy from 1973 to 1983. His uncle, the late John Keeler, was sheriff.
He had a drive to be the best, Sheriff Harrow said. "He certainly was at everything he tried.
"He was a tall, big man. He had a tough exterior, but a heart as big as he was," said Sheriff Harrow, who considered Mr. Keeler a mentor.
People tended to listen to him "because he was no-nonsense," his wife, Dawn said. "But he was compassionate. He was patient enough that he could talk to people where he made sense to them."
His brother, Larry, recalled: "He had a lot of mental toughness. He cared about right and wrong, and he was never afraid to do what was right, even if it wasn't a popular decision, and that wasn't always to throw someone in jail."
He became a mail carrier after retiring as chief. He delivered mail as he ran the probation office, working 70 hours a week, but "he thrived on it," his wife said.
About a decade ago, he served an unexpired term by appointment on village council. He ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 1984, Sheriff Harrow said. Mr. Keeler also was a former driver education instructor at Paulding High School.
Born May 10, 1949, he graduated from the high school in 1967, enlisted in the Army, and was stationed in Alaska. He was a life member of VFW Post 587 in Paulding and a member of Divine Mercy, a Roman Catholic parish in Paulding County.
He was formerly married to Leta Donat Bryant.
Surviving are his wife, the former Dawn Wythe, whom he married July 23, 1990; son Joshua Keeler; stepsons Neil and Brandon Elick; brother, the Rev. Larry Keeler; sister, Deb Atchley; 12 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.
Services are to be Thursday at 10 a.m. in Divine Mercy Parish in Paulding, where visitation is to begin at 9 a.m. Arrangements are by the Den Herder Funeral Home, Paulding. The family suggests tributes to the American Heart Association or the church prayer garden.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.