Jaquelyn “Jacki” Keck, 75, of Williston, passed away at the Bethel Lutheran Home and Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Jacki was born on February 3, 1944 in Washington, D.C. to William M. and Rachel (Ash) Dennis. At the age of four, the family returned to their native state of Iowa, where a younger brother completed the family two years later. There the family lived in numerous small towns, as her father worked as a superintendent of schools consolidating school systems for those local districts. Music was a large part of the family life, as they participated in vocal and instrumental ensembles at schools and churches where ever they lived. In Jr. High, Jacki spent part of an August with her Uncle Wally and Auntie Velma, who introduced her to the French horn and later financed her lessons on the instrument. Shortly thereafter she began her studies on the piano. Upon graduating from Des Moines East High School in 1962, she attended the University of Iowa as a music major in piano and voice. With nearly two years of studies underway, she left and went on to work as a medical receptionist at a local medical law firm.
In 1966, Jacki married L. Stephen Russell. During this eight-year union the couple enjoyed life in Iowa and later in Virginia and New Orleans upon Steve’s draft into the army. At the conclusion of this marriage, Jacki returned to Iowa where she thereafter met James (Jim) Keck, a single father of two (Jonathan Charles and Vail Elizabeth), at the First United Methodist Church of Iowa City. A call to work again as a secretary for Senator Harold Hughes resulted in a move to Washington, D.C. in 1976, where she also enjoyed singing in the National Cathedral Choir. During this time a long-distant courtship blossomed between Jim and Jacki, as common interests in music and faith were explored. In 1977, Jacki returned to Iowa, and the couple was married that August 27th in the church where they met. With Jim’s acceptance of the position as Forensic Unit Director at the North Dakota State Hospital, the family of four then moved to Jamestown.
Spring of 1978 found the family back in Iowa, where, after a year residing in Iowa City, they settled in a home on a hilltop seven miles southeast of Mt. Pleasant. There three boys were added to the Keck family: Wesley Gilbert (1979) and Samuel Fegtly and Robert Sebley (1982). In addition to raising a young family, Jacki immersed herself in the administrative, worship, and music ministries of the First United Methodist Church. Additional volunteer activities included the high school band boosters, the local community theater, and the annual Old Thresher’s and Settler’s Reunion.
In 1992, the family transitioned from country life to city life when Jim was offered the psychologist position at Mercy Medical Center in Williston. As the boys were now older, church and community activities involved the whole family, especially when it came to music. Together they participated in choir and handbells at Faith United Methodist Church, and as the boys played brass instruments in school, Jacki was involved once again with their band booster organizations. Singing with Jim in the Williston Community Chorale and playing French horn side-by-side in City Band was a treasured couple experience. In addition, Jacki took on leadership roles with the Williston Concert Association, Thursday Musical, and supported scholarships for students attending the International Music Camp.
With a song on her lips for every situation, Jacki lived with an omni-present symphony in her ears. Similarly, with a love for prose, Jacki had more than one book in her, with the best of intentions for writing them. She was a family historian, and her aspirations for recording the rich stories of her own life, as well as those of her loved ones, were captured in the fascinating conversations she shared with family and friends.
Jacki’s generous spirit, inviting smile, and infectious laugh had a way of making whomever she talked to feel central at that moment. She was a tenacious dreamer, organizer, event planner, nurturer, encourager, and cheerleader, lifting up everyone around her unconditionally. And yet her greatest joy came in spending time with family and following the accomplishments of her children and grandchildren. Her reach will be widely and deeply missed.
Jacki is survived by her sons, Samuel (Karli) and Wesley, both of Williston; stepson, Jonathan (Yuepeng), Campbell, California, and stepdaughter, Vail (Steve) Rowland, Prosper, Texas; daughter-in-law, Priscilla, Williston, ND; brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Lynn Dennis, St. Paul, Minnesota; and grandchildren, Ian, Emma, Piper, Grace, James, Adam, Olivia and Scarlett.
Preceding Jacki in death were her son, Robert, her husband, Jim, and her parents.