Donald Russel McKeen
1944 - 2022
Obituary of Donald Russel McKeen
DONALD RUSSEL MCKEEN, devoted Dad, beloved “Boompa,” caring brother, proud uncle and great-uncle, who always had a wink and a smile for all around him, died Feb. 3, 2022, in Richardson, Texas. He was born Oct. 20, 1944, in a farmhouse in Comber, Ontario, Canada to Russel McKeen and Lucille Leslie McKeen. The family moved to their family farm outside of Wheatley in 1946. Don played baseball in Wheatley and a variety of sports at Leamington District High School, including basketball and track, and was a member of the high school’s glee club. He graduated from high school at age 17, received his undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor, obtained his Master’s Degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and taught at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
A scholar and a world traveler, he ventured to the University of Texas at Austin to teach and pursue his Ph.D. in the Classics of Latin and Greek. It was at UT Austin where he met his wife, Kristen. They moved to Tehran, Iran for work in the mid 1970s, where his two children, Amanda “Amy” McKeen and Billy McKeen were born. When the political turmoil surrounding the revolution occurred in the late ‘70s, the family made a quick escape to Kristen’s hometown of Houston, settling in Bellaire. Don worked for his father-in-law’s oil company and eventually started his own company distributing wine prior to his career in merchandising. Following the death of Kristen in 1985 when Amy was 9 and Billy was 8, Don devoted himself to being a single father and relished the role of “Mr. Mom.”
Known for his patience and sense of humor, he instilled the values of positivity, kindness and resilience to his children, despite the tragedy that occurred early in their lives. He also passed along his love for baseball, as Billy played baseball and Amy softball from an early age through high school. Don enjoyed playing catch with his children and spent countless hours teaching them the fundamentals and love of the game. He continued to show his commitment to the sport by serving as the President of the Bellaire Little League and becoming an umpire for both youth baseball and softball. He also volunteered for the Kyle Chapman Baseball organization in Houston for several years, thus extending his passion for the game to the fields and young men playing the sport.
When both of his children attended the University of Texas at Austin, Don would visit them on the weekends, often treating his kids and their friends to lunch and groceries. Always generous, Don saw himself as a surrogate Dad to his kid’s friends and showed his affection through his cooking, including his famous spaghetti and stroganoff meals, and his “double tooting” baked beans. Once, he made and delivered an entire Thanksgiving meal to Amy and her fellow UT Resident Assistants, who were working on the holiday. Don moved to Chicago for work in the late ‘90s, allowing him to be close to his siblings in Canada and their families. A move to Kansas City and the Dallas area followed. After Amy married Douglas, she moved near her father in DFW. Billy moved to Denver for work, meeting his wife Jessica there.
Don’s first grandchild, Audrey, gave him the name “Boompa,” which stuck and is the name his family called him for the last 14 years. Boompa relished being a grandpa and caring for and spoiling his four grandchildren — Audrey Simpson, Lainey McKeen, Parker McKeen and Henry Simpson. Being Boompa was the role of a lifetime, and he enjoyed cooking for his grandkids and spoiling them with sweet treats and gifts. In addition to being Boompa, he continued his scholarly pursuits researching and eventually buying several pieces of art by the Pioneers in Modernism: Texas Woman’s University Women Artists from the 1920s to the 1970s. His daughter worked for TWU for several years.
Don never met a stranger and took every opportunity, whether it was a trip to his favorite store Central Market or his walks in a nearby park, to connect with people. He had a gift for gab and his sense of humor that sometimes veered on the edge of inappropriate, but he always wanted to leave you with a laugh and a smile.
After battling and beating Stage IV cancer four years ago, Don considered each day since then a gift. He said, “I have had a great life. I got to see my kids grow up, see them get married so I knew they would be taken care of, and I got to meet my grandkids. Not everyone gets to do that, and I am a very lucky man.” We were all lucky to have Boompa in our life.
Don was preceded in death by his wife Kristen Randerson McKeen, brother and best friend Jim McKeen, his brother-in-law who he considered his brother Lynn Foster, brother Lloyd McKeen and parents Russel and Lucille McKeen. Don is survived by his daughter, Amanda (Amy) McKeen Simpson and her husband, Douglas, and their children Audrey and Henry; son Billy McKeen and his wife, Jessica, and their children Parker and Lainey; his sister Marilyn Foster; his sister-in-law Jane McKeen; his nephew Jeff Foster and his wife, Jennifer, and their son Brayden; his nephew Joel Foster and his wife, Jodi, and their daughters Jacey and Kailey; nephew Travis McKeen and his wife, Julie, and daughter, Emily; and his niece Allison McKeen.
A memorial is planned for a later date in Canada. For those who may wish to, they may donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at www.lls.org or the charity of their choice.