About Letha

In Loving Memory of Letha Muriel (Holbrook) Keyes

Born in 1940, the daughter of Myrtha Leora (Boswell) Holbrook and Joseph Theodore “Ted” Holbrook. Myrtha was a school teacher, who before marriage, taught in a one room school in Meadows, Idaho. Her dad, Ted, was an Electrical Engineer at Powerdale Plant, Hood River, Oregon.Letha, with her two older brothers, Don and Bryce, moved to the Yakima, Washington, area when her dad became supervisor of Naches Drop Hydro Plant.The family moved to Milwaukie, Oregon, when her dad became the Power Superintendent of SE Washington and NW Oregon. She became a person of “Critical Thinking” with studies of music (cello) and active in High School Honors Society, Scroll and Quill (Creative Writing Group), and the Annual Yearbook. She graduated from Milwaukie High School in 1958. She was a member of the Lake Road Presbyterian Church. She played with the Portland Youth Philharmonic.

Letha enrolled at Washington State University at Pullman, Washington, to study pharmacy at a time when few women were pharmacists. She joined the University Orchestra as a Cellist. In Dick and Letha’s wedding album, she wrote, “On Sept. 22nd, 1958, we (Dick) met at about 10 minutes after four when we were attending or first class together and undressing our cellos. Letha was a freshman as W.S.C. She started out immediately in Second Chair and ousted Dick from First Chair.”

This fellow, Dick Keyes, was a shepherd (with much help from his parents) from Lyle, Washington. His mother, Mary Norlee (Davis) Keyes was a school teacher who before marriage taught in a one room school in Bear, Idaho – 14 miles west of the afore mentioned Meadows, Idaho. His dad, Francis “Frank” Holmes Keyes, was a Registered Professional Civil Engineer building hydroelectric dams with the Army Corps of Engineers.

All was not lost for Dick with Letha’s First Chair cellist position. She wrote, “Our first date was on December 14th, 1958, when we had just finished the Christmas Vespers program. It was Sunday night, and the dorms didn’t have dinner so Dick asked Letha ‘if she would like to go and get something to eat?’ She said, ‘Oh, I’d love to.’ Then she dropped her cello and scratched the back (of the cello).”

She received her B. S. in Biology in 1965 from University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. She became a teacher in 1976 and taught Middle and Elementary School for 21 years. She continued her education, earning a M. S. in Education from Portland State University, Oregon, in 1981. She was honored with membership in Phi Delta Kappa in 1981.

Letha was such a helper, wife and lover. She was married to Dick on Aug. 14th, 1960 at her Presbyterian Church. She had two sons, Kirk Devin and Eric Colin (deceased). She continued her emphasis on music by having both her sons take lessons, Kirk in piano and Eric in violin.

As her teaching career progressed, first at Canby, Oregon, and then North Clackamas School District, she developed the Thematic Curriculum for Talented and Gifted Program. The themes were Oceanography, Culture, and Architecture. All of her students, in her 4 or 5 schools per year were working on the same theme for that year. In support of the program, Letha became a world traveler. Some of the trips were under the auspices of “People to People”, a program under the United States State Department, which was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. She took multiple excursions to England, Scotland, Wales, France, Austria, Germany, Denmark, and Turkey, with singular trips to Ireland, China, and South Africa. Of course, numerous trips were made to Canada, Mexico, and most of the USA. Her last trip, which was taken in between her last two rounds of cancer, was a cruise to Alaska in which she visited her cousins late in the summer of 2007.

All this traveling heightened her interest in the admiration of dolls and masks. One of the photos to the right shows her with a Kewpie Doll at age 2 that she still treasured at the end of her life. Letha also preserved her mother’s childhood doll using her own hair that had been saved from when Letha was in grade school to replace the doll’s thinning hair.

Letha had always been an artist – interested in language, landscapes, sewing, smocking, quilting, and embroidery. She was a member of the Rose Trellis affiliate of the Smocking Arts Guild of America, Project Linus, Clandestine Quilters, and others. She won several awards for her quilting in local competitions.

Letha’s early childhood love of tending the family milk cow and other barnyard animals carried over into later life as a devoted cat lover. She also loved bird watching and gardening.

She had a wonderful life and a fun-filled, loving marriage, despite some tragedy. Her life was unfortunately cut short in 2008 by breast cancer and having contracted tuberculosis from her trip to China (she had one lobe of a lung removed due to complications from the tuberculosis).

She was a marvelous and strong person throughout all of her illnesses and is greatly missed.