Former School Board member, WWII hero passes away
By Kyle Barnett - Jan 02, 2014
Former St. Charles Parish Public Schools administrator, School Board member and Hahnville native Richard Keller passed away last week.
Keller, 95, was born in Hahnville in 1918. He served in World War II and was injured by sniper fire while giving orders to his men. Keller, who was 24 at the time, was shot through the neck during the invasion of Bougainville Island in the Pacific.
Even though he was bleeding and did not know the extent of his injuries, Keller told the Herald-Guide before his death that he was not afraid of dying.
“The big thing about the war was that you were in charge of people and you can’t be worried about what is going to happen to yourself. You’ve got to be worried about what is going to happen to everybody because that is your responsibility,” he said.
Keller achieved the rank of captain before leaving the Army and going to Louisiana State University where he received a master’s degree in education.
He returned to St. Charles Parish after graduating from LSU and started what would become a very long career with St. Charles Parish Public Schools. After serving first as a teacher, Keller became the first school counselor ever in St. Charles Parish.
Dr. Rodney Lafon, former superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, said Keller did a lot for the local school system.
“I was only in the district for five or six years at the time Mr. Keller retired. He was an administrator and I was an assistant principal at (J.B. Martin) at the time. He was very supportive of teachers and counselors and school administrators. He was a true believer of public education and a supporter of education,” he said.
Judge Emile St. Pierre knew Keller for 50 years.
“I’ve known him since I was 10 years old. In 1963 I met him,” he said.
St. Pierre was a student at Hahnville High School while Keller was working there and the two later worked together when St. Pierre was elected to the School Board while Keller served as School Board supervisor. Keller, who was also elected to the School Board, later worked with St. Pierre on the board of the Ethel Schoeffner Scholarship Fund.
“He was a character,” St. Pierre said. “He could communicate well with people across generational lines. He always had a story and the older he got the more ancient the stories were, but they were always interesting and intriguing.”
To St. Pierre, Keller serves as a prime example of good citizenship.
“His kind is really a bygone generation. He put his community first and he loved his family. He was a unique character and we are all the better for having known him,” he said. “As a senior citizen, he was volunteering to help those less fortunate than he. He loved people. The bottom line is he loved people.”
In addition to his work for the school system, Keller served for 30 years with the Council on Aging, helped set up the Louisiana Special Olympics and was the first lay person to serve on the State Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Board.
In the weeks before his death, he remained a volunteer at St. Charles Parish Hospital, which he did for the past 15 years.
In an interview with the Herald-Guide in August, Keller made a comment about his outlook on life.
“We just take life easy. The best you can do is live life one day at a time. Yesterday is gone. You can’t live for that,” he said.
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