Donald Henry Keil, 77, of Conrad, Montana passed away 6 May, 2017 of complications from Progressive Supranuclear Palsy at the Marias Medical Center after a lengthy and brave fight. The funeral will be held May 19th at 11:00 at the Conrad Presbyterian Church with a luncheon to follow. The family will spread his ashes in a private ceremony.
Don was the third of four children born to LaVern (Choppy) and Vivian Keil on March 4th, 1940 at Conrad, Montana. He attended elementary school at Fowler Country School and graduated as a Conrad Cowboy in 1958. While in high school, Don earned a Ford convertible car for making the honor roll; he forever loved that car. He was a member of the Ledger Marksmen Rifle Team for a number of years, competing in local matches. In his formative years he spent countless hours operating various farm equipment, but enjoyed running the case tractor in the fields, riding a motorbike and driving jeeps to help round up the cattle, and hunting ducks, coyotes and deer.
He attended Montana State at Bozeman and was on the MSU rifle team and a member of the AGR fraternity, which was the agricultural frat house. During this time he met and married Kay Throckmorton of Conrad. They exchanged their vows at the Presbyterian Church in Conrad September 3, 1961. Don received a Bachelors in Agri-business a year later and put the degree to use by returning and working at the Keil ranch North of Ledger.
Don and Kay started their own farm and Agribusinesses: K&K Seeds, Montana Sainfoin Feeders Feedlot and Montana Seeds. During that time they developed several new strains of small grains and Sainfoin key to this area’s ecosystem. They welcomed two high energy daughters, Helen (Tiger) and Jennifer (Jump) into their lives. Kay’s nephew, Newton (Newt) and niece, DiAnna (Di) joined the growing family.
With Kay’s undying support Don was awarded the Silver Spur Business award and the Montana and National Outstanding Young Farmer Award, often joking he was “out standing” in his field. K&K Seeds was the foremost research, seed and plant development lab for species of grasses and small grains that would flourish in saline seep, and conditions that included short growing seasons, low moisture availability, and cool conditions or droughts. He partnered with some of the leading world renowned plant pathologists to insure results.
Don was well known for his generosity toward those in need, but he had high expectations of his employees and family. He would mentor train employees or individuals who asked for help or advice. He was boy scout, 4-H member and a fervent supporter FFA. Don was a risk taker and tried new and innovative techniques that were ahead of his time and craved cutting edge technology, fast sports cars, big tractors and farming equipment.
He semi-retired from farming moving to the Flathead Valley in Rollins as close as he could to his Grandfather’s lakeside home. During this time he was consumed with fishing just as Grampy Venetz was. Don opened a swanky restaurant/casino – The Rose – with his daughter Helen as the Manager in Kalispell. They served gourmet pancakes in the morning and the evening meal came with a complimentary limousine service.
Don felt the pull of the land and returned to the farm and concentrated on producing, marketing and shipping of Sainfoin nationally and internationally until his passing.
Don was married three times, raised and loved all of the kids. He passed on his work ethic and high expectations without raising his voice or hand in anger.
He is preceded in death by his father and mother, LaVern and Vivian Keil. He is survived by daughters Helen Keil and Jennifer (Rollie) Schlepp, nephew Newton Conklin, niece DiAnna (Allan) Throckmorton, stepchildren Jeremy (Jill) Danbrook, Jennifer (Jef) Fite, Chris (Courtney) Danbrook, grandchildren Calvin (Madeline) Schlepp, Katie (Wade) Kelly, Kylee Schlepp, and Serena Keil-Hoye. Also, sisters Loretta (Erling) Grubb, Charlotte (Bob) Marshall, and brother, Dale (Pat) Keil.
Don’s work ethic beyond reproach, and was fair and extremely generous. He demanded results and was goal oriented. With an eye towards future developments in future farming techniques and plants, he was a leader and asset to the farming community.
Memorials can be made to the Conrad FFA Chapter or the Presbyterian Church of Conrad.