Loren A. Keller

Local: Kenmore Teachers Association
Loren A. Keller - COVID19 Memorial
Loren A. Keller, Teacher from Kenmore Teachers Association died Wednesday, June 3, 2020.  Loren A. was 89.
Loren A. Keller, a teacher, actor, playwright and award-winning author, died June 3 in Williamsville Suburban Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing of complications from Covid-19. He was 89.

Born in Lancaster, he was a 1948 graduate of Lancaster High School, where he played on the basketball and tennis teams. He also acted in school plays and a play that he wrote was performed there.

While attending Buffalo State Teachers College, he enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He attained the rank of second lieutenant and trained soldiers at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., and Fort Benning, Ga.

When he returned to complete his bachelor’s degree at Buffalo State, he ran track and cross-country. He later studied at Cornell University, Canisius College and the University at Buffalo.

He also received a Ford Foundation John Hay Fellowship in 1964-65 to study at University of California, Berkeley, where he witnessed free speech demonstrations.

Mr. Keller spent his entire career teaching high school English in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda schools, beginning in Herbert Hoover School in 1956 when it was used for high school classes before the district built Kenmore East High School.

When Kenmore East opened in 1960, he was one of the original faculty members and served as English Department chairman. He transferred to Kenmore West in 1970 when his children began attending Kenmore East. He played a key role in establishing humanities programs at both schools.

An accomplished bowler, he coached the Kenmore West bowling team. He retired in 1990.

Acclaimed for his writing, he published poetry, novels, plays and essays.

His six books of poetry included a collaboration with artist Robert Freeland and “Evening Everything: The Collected Poems of Loren Keller,” in 2005. His poems appeared in The Buffalo News and he was featured frequently at local poetry readings.

His fiction included short stories and a novel, “Four and Twenty Bluebeards,” in 1999.

An annual fiction award is given in his name at Kenmore West High School and he helped select the winners until his death. He also helped judge entries in the annual writing contest sponsored by the Holocaust Resource Center of Buffalo.

Mr. Keller became playwright-in-residence in the 1980s at Buffalo Ensemble Theatre, which produced five of his plays.

They included “What Dreams May Come,” which was based on his experiences as a suicide prevention counselor with the Suicide Prevention Center of Western New York, now Crisis Services. It received a producers’ production in New York City in 1986. Another play, “Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde,” was given a staged reading in Los Angeles.

A one-act play he wrote with his son Jim, “A Pitch From Satchel Paige,” was the winner of the New York New Works Festival in Manhattan in 2018 and was performed Off-Broadway. Discussions have begun for staging another production of the play in New York.

As an actor, he appeared in “The Runner Stumbles,” “The Elephant Man” and “On Golden Pond,” an Aurora Players production for which he won an acting award.

In 2015, he was inducted into the Performing Arts Hall of Fame at Kenmore East.

He donated his extensive collection of literary and art books to the Medaille College library in 2005.

His marriage in 1954 to the former Jean Kingston, an elementary teacher, ended in divorce. She died in 2002.

Survivors include two sons, Jim and Bob; two daughters, Kathy Otto and Barbara Yendall; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.