“HERITAGE” by James Still
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“I shall not leave these prisoning hills
Though they topple their barren heads to level earth
And the forests slide uprooted out of the sky.
Though the waters of Troublesome, of Trace Fork,
Of Sand Lick rise in a single body to glean the valleys,
To drown lush pennyroyal, to unravel rail fences;
Though the sun-ball breaks the ridges into dust
And burns its strength into the blistered rock
I cannot leave. I cannot go away.
Being of these hills, being one with the fox
Stealing into the shadows, one with the new-born foal,
The lumbering ox drawing green beech logs to mill,
One with the destined feet of man climbing and descending,
And one with death rising to bloom again, I cannot go.
Being of these hills I cannot pass beyond.”
J. E. Keen, the oldest son of Marvin (Tootie) Keen and Rema Ownbey Keen, arrived on Christmas Eve 1939 and lived happily in his beloved Buchanan County for most of his 79 years. J.E. felt strongly that when you are “of a place”, you have a responsibility to return to it, in equal measure, the gifts it has given you. J.E. lived that belief by returning home with his wife, Vivian, after college and a brief stay in Portsmouth, to raise his family. He graduated from Old Dominion University and went on to complete his Master’s Degree and Doctorate in Education at Virginia Tech. He believed that the children of Buchanan County deserved a first-class education, and he put that into practice in the classroom and as Principal of Council Elementary School from 1977 to 1989. Poor health forced J.E. to retire in 1989, but he continued to indulge his passion for learning by raising ducks, rabbits, chickens, and menagerie of other animals.
J.E. is survived by his wife of 56 years, Vivian Wright Keen. He has two children, Rema (Susan) of Abingdon, VA, and Kelley (Tom) Mackey of Council, VA. He and Vivian have 3 grandsons whom they have adored, Luke Mackey, Ty Mackey, and Levi Mackey all of Council. J.E. is survived by 2 sisters: Nancy Keen Short (Dave deceased) of Garden Creek, and Rebecca (Joe) Mullins of Hickory, NC. J.E.’s younger brother, Gary died in 1973. The whole family is grateful for the continued love and presence of his beloved Aunt Inez Fletcher, age 93.
A Celebration of J.E.’s Life will be held on Sunday, March 31st at 2:00 PM at the Council Elementary School. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made in J.E.’s name to Home Nursing Care and Hospice, Council Elementary School or to a charity which holds special meaning to you.