Family, Leaders Honor Elder Von G. Keetch as “Stalwart Servant of the Lord”

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 5 February 2018

The casket of Elder Von G. Keetch, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department, is carried at his funeral in Highland, Utah, on Friday, February 2, 2018.  Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Keetch was remembered for his organized, loving nature.
  • Elder Keetch’s life was a model of diligence and hard work.

“How we loved him. How we trusted him in any assignment at any time in any place. Words cannot express our confidence in him and our loving adoration and gratitude for him. We will really miss him.” —President Russell M. Nelson

HIGHLAND, UTAH

Family, friends, legal associates, and many General Authorities gathered in the Highland Utah East Stake Center on February 2 to honor their father, friend, and colleague, Elder Von G. Keetch.

“Von kept the covenant path with faith in every one of his footsteps,” said President Russell M. Nelson. “Baptized, endowed, sealed, and faithful to temple covenants, he will face his Maker with confidence and joy. He will receive all the blessings God has in store for His faithful children.”

President Nelson shared personal experiences and honored Elder Keetch, who was remembered for his organized, loving nature by participants on the program.

In addition to the newly sustained prophet, four Apostles—Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, and Elder Neil L. Andersen—the entire Presidency of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishopric, many General Authority Seventies and auxiliary presidencies, and emeritus Church leaders were in attendance.

“How we loved him,” said President Nelson. “How we trusted him in any assignment at any time in any place. Words cannot express our confidence in him and our loving adoration and gratitude for him. We will really miss him.”

Bernice Keetch hugs her son Kaden after the funeral of her husband, Elder Von G. Keetch, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department, in Highland on Friday, February 2, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder L. Whitney Clayton, the senior President in the Presidency of the Seventy, conducted the service. Gregory C Keetch, a brother, offered a life sketch, and the Keetch children shared reflections about their father.

“I was once told that my brother’s legal team was only given five minutes to argue their brief in an appellate court,” said Gregory Keetch. “That seemed impossible to me, and even a little unfair, but the task I’ve been given today is no less daunting, to paint a picture of my brother’s life in just five minutes.”

He went on to share three things he admired about his brother: first, that he was loving.

“Von had enough love for everyone plus one more,” he said.

Second, he said his brother “knows where he is going.”

“In our family Von is famous for a phrase—‘Let’s work backwards.’ He uses that phrase anytime we call him and ask him for advice,” he said. Because of that perspective, he understood both how to be organized but also understand the bigger, eternal picture.

“He looked down the road far enough to determine where he wanted to end up, and then he just worked backwards on how to get there.”

The third trait was “he always had a plan.” “He recognized that plans don’t always work out, so he had contingency plans,” his brother said. “He thought, he planned, and he thought some more.”

Recognizing their father liked to “count days,” and would do so for important events, the children each shared important days in their father’s life.

Steffani Keetch Dastrup shared how her father gave a speech at her wedding about “some of the most important days of our lives. He even took the time to figure out exactly the number of day in our lives that it happened.”

Following that same pattern, the Keetch children told about specific days. Dastrup spoke of her father cheering her on as she danced and how he provided her with a smile, both in his role as her father and literally after she had an accident that broke her front teeth.

Alyson Keetch Ball shared how on her dad’s “9,828th day,” she was born. She spoke of her father’s ability to comfort her when things happened in her life that were hard, explaining that people “don’t always get to understand the why.”

Kaden Keetch, the youngest of the children, read a reflection from his older brother, Cameron, who is serving in the South Africa Cape Town Mission.

Cameron called his father a “true sports lover,” and shared how he had a love for music, music Cameron jokingly called “terrible music.” More important, Cameron’s message told of how his father taught him to do the small and simple things.

Kaden shared that it “didn’t matter what we are doing”; his father just loved being together with his children, oftentimes doing his kids’ favorite activities so he could spend time with them.

After the reflections from the children, the extended Keetch family stood in the chapel, turned to the capacity crowd sitting in the stake center, and sang “Families Can Be Together Forever.”

Elder Lance B. Wickman, emeritus General Authority Seventy and a dear friend, spoke, describing his association with Elder Keetch—both in their legal profession and in their Church assignments—“like missionary companions.”

“In the last quarter century, no one, no one, has had a greater impact on the cause of Zion in the courts or in the courts of public opinion than has our beloved friend, Elder Von G. Keetch,” Elder Wickman said.

President Nelson shared the concluding remarks, honoring Elder Keetch for his life of faithful service.

“Just 10 days before his passing, he stood beside the First Presidency in helping to organize that broadcast to the world about the new organization of the First Presidency and the press conference,” he said. “Von was there directing us, helping us, teaching us. How we depended upon him.”

Remembering that he first became acquainted with the Keetch family in 1979, when he performed open heart surgery on Vern D. Keetch, Elder Keetch’s grandfather, President Nelson quickly noted, “I’ve calculated, and that day was number 6,931 of Von’s life.”

Telling of how he and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, were in the Keetch home just last Sunday, President Nelson spoke of the “spirit of peace and love” that was “so very strong” in their home.

“On each temple are the words ‘Holiness to the Lord,’” he said. “In the Keetch home, I felt it was a ‘holy nest to the Lord.’”

President Nelson spoke of a glorious reunion with Elder Keetch and those who have gone before.

“Ever been to the airport and watched a missionary come home? That’s a pretty happy sight, isn’t it? That’s only a dress rehearsal to think what it will be like for Von to be greeted with open arms and the warm embrace from the Lord Himself,” he said.

President Nelson shared a letter of comfort from the First Presidency addressed to Sister Bernice Keetch, Elder Keetch’s wife, as well as words of encouragement.

“We express to you and your family our heartfelt sympathy at the passing of your beloved husband and our friend, Elder Von G. Keetch. At the same time, we rejoice with you in his life of devoted service. Elder Keetch’s life was a model of diligence and hard work. His devotion as a husband, father, grandfather, and stalwart servant of the Lord influenced the lives of loved ones and all with whom he associated.”

Three of the Keetch children sang “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” and both of Elder Keetch’s sons-in-law offered prayers. Gary Vern Keetch, Elder Keetch’s father, offered the family prayer prior to the funeral, and after the funeral, Elder Keetch’s son Tyler dedicated the grave in the Pleasant Grove City Cemetery.

Kathy Linebaugh hugs her nephew Kaden Keetch after the funeral of his father, Elder Von G. Keetch, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department, in Highland on Friday, February 2, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The casket of Elder Von G. Keetch, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department, is carried after his funeral in Highland on Friday, February 2, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.