Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gary Clifford Keeling, age 68, of Bolivar, passed away at 11:14 a.m. Wednesday, June 29, 2011, at the Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar following a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born on April 25, 1943, in Butterfield, Mo., the son of Clifford and Mildred (Pilant) Keeling.

Gary was a graduate of Joplin High School in 1961, Joplin Junior College in 1963, John Brown University in 1965 and Middle Tennessee State University in 1970.

On July 2, 1966, he was united in marriage to Jannis Bland in Neosho, Mo. To this union four children were born.

Gary began his 35 year coaching career by spending two years in Pleasant Hope as the high school boys basketball coach. From Pleasant Hope, Gary enlisted in the United States Air Force. After serving four years, Gary was honorably discharged in June 1971 as a staff sergeant. He resumed his coaching career at Jasper High School where he coached boys basketball and girls volleyball from 1971-1979. Gary was the boys basketball coach at Gravette, Ark., in 1980 and coached girls basketball and volleyball at Bolivar High School from 1984 to 2008.

Gary had an illustrious career in coaching in Arkansas and Missouri and was privileged to have had 585 wins in his career. In 2005, Gary was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. In 2007, he and his Lady Liberators placed third in the Missouri Girls Class 4A State Tournament. And his final year of coaching in 2008 with his Lady Liberators became State Champions of the Missouri Girls Class 4A Tournament.

Gary touched many lives with his coaching, teaching and famous sense of humor. He was known as a special husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, coach and friend. He will be missed by many.

He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Bob and Larry Keeling and a niece Gayle Ann Keeling.

Survivors include: his wife, Jannis, of 45 years; two sons, Gary Keeling, of St. Louis, Mo., and Robert Keeling and wife, Lea Ann, of Carthage, Mo.; two daughters, Dawnmarie Petersen and husband, Tommy, of Halfway, Mo., and Brandi Keeling, of Bolivar; two brothers, Bill Keeling and wife, Marti, of Rogers, Ark.; John Keeling and wife, Deb, of San Antonio, Texas; one sister, Janice Austin and husband, Jim, of Joplin, Mo.; his grandchildren, Cord, Layne, Jordan and Grayce Petersen and Matthew and Mallory Keeling; and a host of nieces and nephews.

A Celebration of Gary's life was held Saturday, July 2, 2011, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church in Bolivar with Rev. Ray Leininger officiating. Musical selections were "Amazing Grace" by Haley Toombs, "Light House" by Jerry Scott, and a congregational song of "Precious Memories." Casketbearers were Todd Schrader, Gary Redford, Shawn Rowley, Jerry Scott, J. R. Collins, Stacy Wells, Darren Archer and Eric DeRossett.

Burial was at the Greenwood Cemetery in Bolivar under the care and direction of the Butler Funeral Home of Bolivar.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Keeling Foundation for Kids, P.O.Box 48, Bolivar, MO 65613

Friends may sign the guest book or send private condolences at

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