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Philosophy and Religious Studies

Chester Ziegler Keller -- 1925-2014

Chester Ziegler Keller, 88, died Saturday, July 12, 2014 in Portland, OR.

Born September 26, 1925, in Buffalo Springs, PA, to Paul and Hannah Ziegler Keller, Chester was one of six children. He earned his undergraduate degree from Bridgewater College (VA) and PhD in Philosophy from USC (CA).

His studies were interrupted by assignment, as a World War II conscientious objector, to a series of Civilian Public Service (CPS) detachments, including firefighting near Lassen Volcanic National Park and wrangling horses as a "Seagoing Cowboy" on three Liberty-ship transfers of livestock to war-torn Europe. Following his discharge from CPS, Chester volunteered as an agriculture instructor in China, through Brethren Voluntary Service (BVS) under the auspices of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

During his service with BVS he met Rosemary Holderreed of Oakville, WA. They married in June 1952 and honeymooned that summer spotting fires at a Forest Service lookout near Elk City, ID. In 1960 the couple moved their family to Ellensburg, WA where Chester joined the faculty of Central Washington State College.

Chester worked at Central for more than 40 years as a founder and leader of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies and, more generally, in tireless advocacy of liberal learning while Central underwent its expansion and transition in the 1960s to a regional university. Chester was the university's inaugural Distinguished University Professor for Teaching in 1979.

From 1960 through 2004 the family spent summers in Yellowstone National Park, where Chester served as a seasonal ranger. His 45 continuous seasons made him the longest-tenured ranger to serve in the Park. Chester deeply loved Yellowstone and it is there that his ashes will finally rest. His embrace of the park fertilized his interest in ecological relationships as a foundation of spiritual and religious experience. He thought the National Park Idea was one of our country's finest contributions to civics. He ardently wished these insights for all citizens.

Chester and Rosemary moved to Portland, OR in 2005, where they resided until their deaths. Chester is survived by his sister Eva (Wagner) Wampler; grandchildren, Hannah and David Conwell and Suzanne and James Keller; his three children and their spouses: Kent and Teresa (Harder) Keller of Palouse, WA, Mark Keller and Sondra Storm, and Kristen and Bill Conwell of Portland, OR. He was preceded in death by Rosemary, his parents, step-father Levi Wagner, and siblings, Grace, Leon, Mary, and Esther.

Chester's life will be celebrated at a service in the Terrace Auditorium at the Willamette View retirement community in Portland, Oregon at 11:30 AM on Saturday, July 26th. Memorial contributions may be sent to The CWU Foundation, 400 East University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926, with note or memo to credit the Chester Z. Keller Scholarship.

Published in the Daily Record