Services for Reverend Patterson Keller (3/30/1930-3/20/2020), rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Cody for 17 years, will be scheduled for this summer under direction of Ballard Funeral Home.
The family welcomes your thoughts and remembrances at Rev. Keller’s memorial page on BallardFH.com and encourages you to honor his memory by savoring food and seeing anew the people with whom you gather.
Keller, 89, died Friday at his home, with his family gathered. He was the grandson and son of Episcopal ministers.
He was born to Rev. Christoph and Kathryn Patterson Keller in Highland Park, Ill. As a young man, his family moved to a farm on the eastern shore of Maryland where his love of dogs and hunting grew. With his friend Cameron Thompson, he raced in the Comet 1, the first Comet class sailing boat, now housed in the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.
He graduated high school from St. Andrews School in Delaware, and graduated from Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., where he fell in love with the theater, acting in and producing plays. He received a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1956.
His first church posting was in Huslia, Alaska, on the Koyukuk river, where he was ordained by the Right Reverend William J. Gordon, the “flying Bishop” of Alaska. The Indigenous Athabaskan community spoke Koyukan language as preserved in books written by Catherine Attla. She became Pat’s friend as they shared their mutual respect for important stories that teach “what is sacred and true” with each other.
He was there for seven years that included building a log church and home. Pat was an invited hunting partner by many in the community for his sure shot and the humor he brought to hunting camp.
Bishop Gordon was also instrumental in introducing Pat to his love, Cornelia Pease Godfrey, when she and three other college students spent a summer teaching classes in Alaskan mission towns.
Her two-week stay in Huslia served as their introduction, during which time he recited Robert Service poetry. Connie determined he was the most interesting person she had ever met. Their courtship continued through letters and a telegraph proposal, delivered to Connie’s dorm room during her senior year at Mt. Holyoke College. Pat attended her graduation and they were married 10 days later, the beginning of their 62-year marriage.
They returned to Huslia where daughters Kathryn Patterson and Christina Barlass were born in Fairbanks, Alaska. Thanks to Pat’s love of photography, preserved as a slide collection, they have an evocative record of their adventures including having a small team of sled dogs and visiting Huslia friends at fish camps.
Pat joined in on trips to check beaver trap lines and participated in many moose and duck hunts. The collection of his slides has become an important cultural resource for study of this crucial moment as technologies like snowmobiles and planes were first beginning to alter the daily lives of subsistence communities.
Pat took family portraits for anyone in the region who asked, and also recorded the working of fish wheels, river boats, and local building projects that included power generators. Connie digitized the slide collection in the early 2000s, and they can be seen in the documentary “Attla” about Huslia’s world-champion dog sled racer, as well as producing lively Huslia Facebook conversations.
The Pat and Connie Keller archive can be found at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Their parkas are at the State Historical Museum, and were made by Gramma Liza, George Attla’s mother, renowned for her skill.
With a third child on the way, the family moved to the church of the Good Shepard in Sundance, drawn in part by Pat’s memories of summers spent on a ranch near Rawlins, the connection there being that his father, Christoph, had been rector of the Episcopal church in Lander between 1912-1914.
Christoph also established a mission church in Atlantic City, the logs for which he helped cut. The little church is still there today. Also, Pat loved tales of his father’s time in Great Falls, Mont., especially of his parents’ friendship with cowboy artist and storyteller Charles M. Russell, whose funeral service Christoph held.
Pat built a love of Russell’s stories with bedtime readings of Trails Plowed Under with his children. Children Mary Louise and Patterson Jr. were born in Sundance, and the family loved picnics, fishing, and trips to Mato Tapila (aka Devil’s Tower) with lifelong friends.
This love for Wyoming continued when he was called to Christ Episcopal Church in Cody in 1971, where Pat’s remarkable voice and memorable delivery of sermons became part of the community. He served on the school board and brought theatrical flair to the Rotary Club.
Singularly important was his support for the Wednesday after-school program held at the Parish Hall, open to all kids, and drawing the talents of local artists, puppet makers, rug hookers and potters amongst other devoted arts volunteers.
After 17 years in Cody, Pat and Connie were called to Emmanuel parish at Orcas Island, Wash., where his love of boats and big water found a wonderful home base, with the church posed at the head of the East Sound Bay.
After making more gun-club friendships and deep connections that included the Friends of the Library, the couple retired to Cody, enjoying especially their time at the cabin on the North Fork. There they hosted a picnic every summer for the opening of the Wayfarer’s Chapel. Fishing, bird watching, filling shot gun shells, and twice weekly outings to the gun club were some of his great joys. Friends from the gun club said, “If he can see it, he can shoot it.”
Pat is survived by his wife Cornelia, sister-in-law Cora Godfrey, brother-in-law John Godfrey; three daughters, Kathryn Okonzak-Lowry (Jeff Lowry) of Golden, Colo., Christina Wykert (Todd) of Casper, Mary L. Keller (Thomas Keegan) of Cody, and son Patterson Jr. of Peoria, Ariz., as well as grandchildren Wesley Okonzak, William Lowry, Amy (Chris Raymond) and Ryan Wykert, Conall and Russell Keegan, and great-grandchildren Logan and Rylee Raymond.
Memorials may be made to Doctors Without Borders or Christ Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 1718, Cody, WY 82414.