Luella “lu” M. Keeney was born Luella Mary Henriksen during a snowstorm on the 19th of February 1929 in Alberta Minnesota. Her parents, George and Nina Henriksen were, at the time, holed up with George’s parents in the spare bedroom. Months before, the couple, full of hopes and dreams, had eloped in their Model T Ford under what can only be deemed less than favorable circumstances. Now pregnant and forced to refuge back home, they found themselves without the presence of a doctor or nurse and the cold wind rattling their windows. Luella was delivered, healthy and strong into the waiting arms of her aunts. It was an inauspicious beginning to what would be a long and fruitful life spanning 94 years. Besides giving life to four children, three of whom survive, Mike Keeney, Judy Arnold and Kevin Keeney, (Randy Keeney, the third born died in 2008), she leaves 12 grandchildren, and 29 great-grandchildren and counting with one on the way.
Luella would be joined by two other siblings, John and Gayle (who is still living). Lu was a preacher’s kid, known in the business as a PK. PK’s have a particular burden to bear living as they do with fishbowl expectations. Luella managed to keep her own identity and strong opinions, while embracing her faith and religious roots then passing this legacy on to her offspring. She remained a devoted Christian all her life, and those that knew her strong relationship with Jesus often asked for her to intercede in prayer for them. And, she did. She found time and ways to mentor many young women who were drawn to her wisdom, her strong marriage and her faith.
Though raised in a conservative branch of the church, she kept up with the times and styles of the day both in the humor of the day, her manner and the clothes she wore. When she died she left behind 56 pairs of nylons and 16 pairs of black pants. During WW2 when Lu was a young woman, nylons were scarce so she would take an eyeliner and carefully draw a line up the back of her calf to make it look like she was wearing them. Highly intelligent and blessed with a good sense of humor, she was also a keen judge of character. She would have to be because her life would include many moves. First with her father, often assigned by the District Supt. to stabilize troubled church’s, and then married to the love of her life, Ken Keeney, who took a position with GTE selling yellowpages and in order to bring home the bacon, lived on the road each week.
Ken’s job forced Luella to play both father and mother to their three wild boys and one charming girl (the author gets the last say), until Ken could join her on the weekends and bring the fire if necessary. She’d had other choices. While in Nampa, a beauty, she was pursued and came close to marrying a young man, but fate intervened, as it often did in her life, and she moved with her family back to the Northwest. There she became reacquainted with Ken Keeney who she’d known from their church back in Iowa. Two quick weeks later Luella Henriksen became Luella Keeney. Strikingly handsome and full of fun and vigor, Ken was a commanding presence and the love of her life. The two built a strong marriage, one noted for its closeness.
Lu read voraciously, books by the week, covering everything from science to politics. She loved flowers and gardening, especially rock gardening, and sports. She loved hockey which she played back in Minnesota and water sports. She still could ski at the age of 60. As a young woman she attended Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa Idaho majoring in nursing which she loved. But fate would intervene again and Ken was reassigned this time to Hawaii.. It was not the worst place to go, but it came at a heavy price. They would have to say goodbye to the dream home they’d built on a Lake in Everett Washington. Lu made the company pay the freight of cost of shipping her favorite car, a 1980 AMC Pacer,made in Mexico.
Serious tragedy visited Lu twice. Once when she lost her son, Randy, who was only in his fifties, and the second time when cancer took Ken from her. He died at the young age of 64. She would mourn him for the rest of her life until she passed away 30 years later. There are many more things which could be said about Luella. It’s difficult to sum up her life. Everyone who had contact with her remembers her as a gifter. She loved giving to people, generous almost to a fault, but to those of us who knew her best, we will remember her demeanor, a quiet determination in a woman one could easily underestimate.