The perfectly written obituary

Over the years we’ve provided plenty of examples of the perfectly-written obituary, in which we are invited to grieve the loss of someone we may not have known.

Today’s Star Tribune carries the obituary of Freddy Keillor. It is heartbreaking, joyous, wonderful, and horribly sad all at the same time.

Keillor, Frederick James “Freddy” Age 17, of St. Paul. He caught his first fish at age five, only to immediately and frantically work to save its life. When the fish died, he demanded a proper burial along the banks of the St. Croix River.

Freddy had a St. Francis of Assisi-like love for animals, and a special affinity for St. Jude’s hopeless cases. Recently, a group of orphaned ducklings met a similar fate as that first fish, but not before he’d toiled for weeks trying to offer the motherly care they needed.

Frederick Keillor’s earthy journey ended much too early on Monday at the age of seventeen, leaving behind many questions as well as countless comforting memories of a gentle, sensitive soul who never balked at helping out all animals, humans included.

A brilliant mind who excelled at St. Paul Academy (even when he overslept), Freddy could master a debate class one year and win an anthropology poetry contest the next. Freddy spoke Chinese and built his own computer at the age of ten. A voracious reader and painter, his canvases revealed works that showcased his artistic gifts.

He’d looked forward to prom and spoke glowingly of his date. Just last weekend Freddy was discussing college choices.

Drawn to water and nature, he wasn’t solitary. Freddy was wonderful with children even as a small child. His preschool teacher remarked that she felt comfortable leaving the room if Freddy was there.

The streets of St. Paul are slightly quieter this week. His proficient whistling is silenced, as is the SUV carrying Freddy and his mother, windows open, blasting 80s music, both of them singing along with off-key abandon.

We’d like to think the Big Next for Freddy is an outdoor picnic populated with all the animals he tried to save over the years, past pets (including Gus), and a new brood to care for. Nearby will sit all of those who went before him, including his grandmother Mary and great- grandmother Elsie, all the while surrounded by the pile of mismatched shoes he was always losing and a big tree to climb, like the one he mastered at age seven to get a better view of the river.

Freddy is survived by his mother, Tiffany Hanssen; father, Jason Keillor; stepfather, Chris Longley; brother, Charlie Keillor; step-siblings, Kit, Mari and Charlie Longley; paternal grandfather G. Keillor (Jenny Nilsson); Aunt Maia Keillor; maternal grandmother Julie Hanssen; countless extended family and close friends; and a ball python named Steve, who is hereafter available for adoption by a new caring family.

Visitation: Saturday 5/20, 4-8 pm, O’Halloran & Murphy, 575 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul. Funeral: Tuesday 5/23, 10:30 am, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 515 S. Albert St., St. Paul.

  • Ralphy

    I never met Freddy. Yet I now feel that I know him. And that I have lost a friend.

  • Mike Worcester

    Only seventeen? Far too young. :(.

  • KTFoley

    I imagine that his grandfather authored this?

    Condolences to the family.

  • kennedy

    Stories like this may not get as many comments as a more controversial topic, but this is why I love this blog.

    Thank you.

  • Al

    I think many of us are surrounded by our own Freddies. Give them an extra squeeze today, and remember to tell them, out loud, how much you love and admire them.

  • KariBemidji

    When my kids were little, I would go in to their rooms and put my fingers over their little mouths to make sure they were still breathing. Now at 14 and 17, I look at them and wonder what is going on in their heads – am I asking the right questions, am I present enough, do they know how much we and others love them? They both got extra hugs and I love you’s this morning. Thank you Bob for sharing this. And thank you Keillor family.