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My Dad’s Story

Roger Charles Keim passed away Saturday night, December 26, at the Eastern Maine Medical Center. He was 67 years old.

Roger was born October 9, 1942 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to Charles  and Ruth Keim. Though the region’s character and ecology have been largely lost to sprawl, Roger’s childhood setting was pastoral, and farm country and culture molded his character.

Happy as a boy to find an orange in his Christmas stocking or play baseball with cow patties for bases, Roger never took small comforts for granted, or failed to appreciate a kindness. Work on his uncle’s farm and summer trips to Lake Ontario seeded a love of nature and its rhythms, and of fishing. Trains captured his imagination — the craftsmanship of engines, whistles that hinted of a world beyond his own. So did the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts he found at night on a crystal radio set. That the broadcasts were in French only made them more romantic; Roger became a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan, later giving the surname of star player Maurice Richard as a middle name to Brandon, his second son.

A linebacker and kicker in high school, Roger attended Temple University on a football scholarship. He majored in communications, graduated in 1964 and took a job as a general assignment reporter at the Coatesville Record. Shortly after graduating, he married Nancy Hie, with whom he had a son, Roger Alan Keim, born in 1967. The couple divorced a few years later.

After a year at the Record, Roger was hired by the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he became the youngest sportswriter at a major daily newspaper in the nation. He covered the Philadelphia Flyers, Eagles and 76ers, as well as other sports; he relished memories of going to the laundromat with Wilt Chamberlain, taking serves from Arthur Ashe, being saved by Stan Mikita from beer bottles hurled by an angry fan.

In 1973, Roger married Angela Gilladoga, a physician from the Philippines, and moved to New York City. Their courtship included a trip to the Montreal Forum and watching the New York Mets win the 1969 World Series. Roger first traveled to Maine to write about the blueback trout, a rare fish considered by some to be extinct; he caught one, and — as he loved to recall — it was accidentally cooked for breakfast by Angela. They honeymooned in northern Maine at the Red River Camps, to which they returned almost every year for the rest of Roger’s life. Enamored by the Maine’s rural ruggedness and cheer, they moved to Bangor in 1976 in expectation of the birth of their son, Brandon.

Though new to the state, Roger was soon rooted in it. He enjoyed fly fishing for Atlantic salmon — and, more than fishing itself, telling stories — at the Penobscot Salmon Club. He became active in the local model railroading community, and campaigned to keep passenger rail service in the state. He explored Maine’s back roads and forgotten corners, often with Brandon and always with a camera, photographing trains and wildlife and weathered farm buildings.

As Brandon grew older, Roger retired from journalism in order to be a full-time father. He coached hockey, first for local youth teams for which Brandon played, then at Bangor High School and with the River City Raiders, a team founded by Roger and Angela. As a coach, Roger was inspired by the example of legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, known as much for caring personally about his players as for success on the field. Two players in particular — Natan Obed, now working on social policy in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and Brock Soucie, an electrician in Flemington, New Jersey — were like sons to him, and remained close to Roger until his death.

In 1992, Roger and his family moved to their current home on Ohio Street. There he began work on a model railroad layout that, had it been completed, would have been among the largest in the country; covering 2300 square feet, each part corresponded to a place his family had visited during their many trips across the United States and Canada. Much of it was devoted to British Columbia’s Rocky Mountains, a region that, like Maine, he treasured for its natural beauty and small-town warmth.

The home on Ohio Street and its environs became Roger’s world. He read extensively and loved watching animals in the fields and fishing in the nearby pond with Comet, the family’s beloved Labrador Retriever, at his side. In 2005, shortly after finishing his final article — a feature, co-written with Brandon, on the invasion of muskellunge into northern Maine’s waterways — Roger was hospitalized with severe heart disease. His heart recovered, but diabetic neuropathy restricted his movements to home. Nevertheless, Roger remained active in the lives of Brock and Natan, welcoming their children as grandchildren. He took great pride in, and gave unflagging support to, the burgeoning journalism career of Brandon, now a science writer for Wired and other national publications. Articles they discussed and researched during Roger’s final years, on the restoration of Atlantic salmon to Maine and the anticipated disfiguration of the Moosehead Lake region by corporate real estate developers, will be written. Roger often worried that Angela worked too hard, and encouraged her to relax.

Roger is survived by his wife, Angela; his sons, Brandon and Roger; his sons in spirit if not blood, Natan and Brock; his mother, Ruth; his sister, Molly; and many friends and relatives.

He will be remembered with love.

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