The Life of Mary Lou Keeling
We lost the matriarch of our family on Friday, November 20, 2020. Our Mom. Our Nana. The fiercest pinochle player you’ve ever met.
Born on September 20, 1936 to Thomas and Bernadette Reinhard, she was one of a pack of ten wild children. The stories she told of running around town and the countryside with her brothers and sisters were legendary – “the police were terrified of my brothers, but even more scared of my mom”, she would boast. And we reveled in these stories – we were born into a lawless bunch, a source of pride for her grandchildren.
She loved with an incredible fierceness – and that happened a time or two (or three of four) with some handsome men along the way. Our Nana, the beauty, had a few great love stories. But make no mistake about it – she would take no shit and never feared being on her own. As such, she had to send a few sad sacks packing along the way…she was a heartbreaker.
She had four pregnancies and five children – a surprise bundle of twins tucked in the middle. She adored her children and embodied what it meant to love unconditionally. As a single mother with no formal education, she worked tirelessly to feed her bunch. She was firm but fair – her children reaped all the benefits of her bravery and independence. There was no hill she wouldn't climb for her kids.
Between work and her motherly duties, she still found time to raise a little hell. Fun followed when our Nana and her best friend, Peg were on the scene – they were quite a duo and lifelong friends - a loyalty and bond deeper than most Earthly friendships.
She became a grandmother before turning 40, a role that seemed to be created just for her. Though, her home wasn’t filled with nursery school poems and Bible verses – it’s where we all learned what it meant to have a royal flush draw and how to bet that hand accordingly, how to balance a cigarette in one corner of your mouth while taking a sip of windsor and water from the other, it’s where we learned all the lyrics to Sweet Caroline and Spinning Wheel, it’s where we would scream out any whimsical food craving we were having, and she’d whip it up faster (and better) than any diner and it’s where we learned the true meaning of love and loyalty – her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were her world.
Her talents were limitless – she knit beautiful clothing items and blankets for her family. She filled us up with homemade bread and cheesecakes and deviled clams and sweet potatoes – there was no recipe too complicated or laborious, she showered us with love through her kitchen. She adored playing board games, but particularly loved playing pinochle and poker – she could be found at her kitchen table playing cards and games nearly every night of the week with Peg, and one or two of her kids or grandkids. She loved the beach, trips to Atlantic City, and spending days out shopping and hunting for “good deals”.
She reminds us now, as she did for all those years, bank accounts don’t make you rich – your family does. With her around, we were wealthy beyond measure.
Mary Lou was predeceased by her eldest daughter, Judy Ann, 7 years ago. This devastated her to the core.
And then there is us, the broken hearts club:
Children: Nanette; wife of Bob Roth, Jackie Ream, John Keiser; husband of Tim Sakel, Michelle Keiser.
Bonus children: Michael Harden. Mary Lou Keiser.
Grandchildren: Mikal C. Harden; wife of Marialice (MA). Joshua Harden; husband of Kearra. Jacy Wiewiora, wife of Eric. Jeremy Reimert. Megan Schlegel; wife of Jeremy. Kristen Seyfert; wife of Paul. Steven Schroeder. Jordan Ream. Chase Keiser. Hadyn Keiser.
Greats: Brayden Schlegel. Quentin Kriner. Julian Wiewiora. Aubrey Reimert. Jack and Finn Carter-Harden. Isabella, Asher, and Mya Harden. Charlie and Levi Seyfert.
Our Nana suffered from a disease that began to steal her from us little by little over the course of many years – until it was all consuming. If you are searching for a way to help us honor her memory, hit the big donate button on this site and maybe we’ll find a future where other families don’t suffer in the same way:
“Me and you are subject to the blues now and then
But when you take the blues and make a song
You sing them out again
Sing them out again”
Love you more, Nana.