Albert Raymond “Ray” Keeler passed away from natural causes at his home on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Services were held at the Bible Baptist Church in Yuma Ariz. Interment will be held in 2020 at the Valier Cemetery. Condolences may be sent to 14555 S. Ave. 4E #107; Yuma, AZ 85365.
Ray was born May 6, 1935 to Wilmer and Bertha Keeler. Ray was always proud that he was born at his grandparents, John and Lily Bowman, home in Kalispell, Mont. He grew up and went to school in Valier, Mont. and graduated from Valier High School in 1955. He joined the Montana Air National Guard in 1954. After a brief courtship he married Bessie Becker at the First Christian Church in Conrad, Mont., on Saturday, Oct. 13, 1956. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1957 and spent most of his military career as a lineman stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C.
After Ray’s honorable discharge in 1960 he and his family of five moved back to Montana. He worked for three years as a farm hand for Frank Seifert and was an active member of the surrounding Lone Tree Community. He then returned to his military lineman background and went to work for Lewis Construction. He started work for the Montana Power Company in 1967, first in Great Falls where he repaired stoves while taking his journeyman lineman courses.
After upgrading to lineman the company moved the family to Melstone where he worked for 17 years. Long working hours and severe weather conditions prompted Ray to apply and was accepted for a position in the meter shop in Butte, Mont., in 1986. Ray was fiercely proud of Montana Power, for its company presence and mark it had made in the State of Montana, for the essential service it provided, and for its loyalty to its employees. He spoke highly of his bosses, co-workers, office personal, and sub-contractors he worked with, many of who became life-long friends. After nearly 30 years he retired from Montana Power in 1994.
For three years Ray and Bessie traveled in their RV, with a grand trip to the East coast to visit family and old friends they had made during Ray’s service years. They traveled Arizona extensively, finally settling in Yuma in 1999.
While in Melstone he was active in the Melstone Volunteer Fire Department. He was most proud of the new fire hall he helped build there. He talked often about the many years he played Santa Claus passing out candy from the fire trucks in the surrounding towns. Ray was also a dedicated member of Victory #117 Masonic Lodge in Musselshell.
While living in Butte, Ray and Bessie renewed their love of square dancing, which was sparked years before in Lone Tree. They danced and/or Ray called with the Silver Bows and Belles and many other clubs until 2003.
With the encouragement of his cousin Edna, Ray took up the artistic talents of his family linage and enjoyed oil painting. After settling in Yuma they joined the Bible Baptist Church. Ray took much pleasure in helping as a handyman at his church and Rancho Bonitos RV Coop Park where they resided.
Ray liked to camp and fish. The more secluded the location the better, yet he loved to go with family and friends too. He liked to build things of wood, most times without a pattern. He loved puzzles; a Rubik’s cube, mental brainteasers, or frustrations bottles were no challenge, he would have them solved in minutes. And if he was looking for a jigsaw puzzle piece, the piece he picked up most times fit.
Unknown to most, Ray was very proud of his extended family. He could tell you of his Keeler and Bowman grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as all his first cousins. When traveling if any relative lived along the route most times Ray and Bessie would stop for a visit. Ray may not have written letters but never discouraged Bessie from corresponding with all the family, this was his way of keeping up with the family happenings.
Ray was preceded in death by his parents: brothers, “Ed” and “Butch;” and son, Charles Raymond.
He is survived by his wife, Bessie; one brother Alfred (Shirley) of Great Falls; sisters, Mary Ann (Roger) Duberowski of Lake Havasu, Ariz.,, and Roberta Spring of Salt Lake City, Utah; daughters, Rose (Elmo) Coblentz of Maxville, Mont., and Adair (Jay) Rademacher of Musselshell, Mont.; three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren; nieces and nephews; and many special cousins.
All Saints Cremation & Memorial Chapel (www.All-SaintsCremation.com) is in charge of arrangements.