A Poem for The Deacon

Mortal Moroni

by David Burn

Let it be known our man of Utah
is mortal, ever imperfect

Yet this Moroni, our Moroni
is not without his church

Pagans dance to an Earthen beat
and sway to reason’s raucous chorus

Arches are his altar
rivers his holy water

Socrates too was taken
by a mob

Cancer is today’s ugly fissure
a vengeful taker

Pain ceases with life
another movement complete

Mortal Moroni rejoins the unborn
and born again

This is the place
where angels point the way

From the tops of holy temples
and the lonely peaks of Deseret

In wild canyons
angels sing heavenly songs

What is love? Love is
the active ingredient in consciousness

A light that can not be extinguished
by the icy chill of time

From Mortal Moroni’s horn
this universal note

Be kind, be a friend
pick ‘n’ grin, mix in gin

Our man of Utah no longer stands
he freaks no more

You freak on
forever find the groove

Dance to the music
knees up near your ears

Full tilt boogie friends
epic adventures for the soul

This is the place
where angels point the way

From the tops of holy temples
and the lonely peaks of Deseret

In wild canyons
angels sing heavenly songs

From pioneer stock he came
priesthood on a platter

The garments did not fit
his lanky frame, nor his frame of mind

A western wind lifted his spirits
his faith was rugged

An Atheist he said he was
and a believer in love, beauty and truth

Some fall to get to Terrapin
some climb

What our man of Utah can no longer do
you do

Stand tall, reach high
Eat, drink and be merry

Walk many miles in cool mountain rain
always the mountain

This is the place
where angels point the way

From the tops of holy temples
and the lonely peaks of Deseret

In wild canyons
angels sing heavenly songs

Missing: A Public Intellectual and Force for the Common Good

It was gratifying to read this thoughtful piece of reporting on DK’s passing in The Salt Lake Tribune.

UVU professor, who was esteemed for his work in environmental ethics, remembered as a “public intellectual.”

“He always said it wasn’t his job to convince his students of his point of view, but to give them a broad understanding of various points of view,” said Richard Keller. In his 18 years at UVU, David Keller brought lofty ideas down to earth, said philosophy professor Elaine Englehardt.

“He helped students understand the most difficult of philosophical ideas,” she said. “He had the ability to explain simply what he was trying to say.”

Indeed. DK knew how to present ideas in a way that made the lofty available.

Thankfully, he made a series of videotaped lectures that are all available on YouTube. Here’s the first in the series of eight:

“I especially hope to show how the study of philosophical ethics is directly pertinent to everyday life, in your personal relationships, in your job and as a citizen in a democracy,” DK said.

DK was a well respected and well known intellectual who dared not dwell in ivory towers. He was a man of the people and a man about town, a.k.a. “the walking philosopher.”

DK Gets The Last Word, Writes His Own Obituary

DAVID RICHARD KELLER (12/17/62-12/28/13)
OBITUARY (written by DK)

David Richard Keller was born on a snowy morning in Salt Lake City, December 17, 1962, to proud parents JoAnn Olson Keller and Richard Hubbard Keller and spent his early life in the Olympus Cove and Neffs Canyon. David was extremely close with family members Dick and JoAnn and Peter and Christena, having a formative adolescence exploring the red rock canyons of the Colorado Plateau and the peaks of the Wasatch Range.

He attended Skyline High School and began taking Philosophy courses at the University of Utah and Pitzer College. David earned a double-baccalaureate in English and Philosophy at Franklin and Marshall College, a master’s in Philosophy at Boston College, and a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Georgia. David also matriculated at the University of Edinburgh.

During this period, David attended 183 Grateful Dead and 36 Jerry Garcia Band concerts. This period catalyzed a penchant for travel: David traversed 49 United States (omitting North Dakota) and 39 countries.

At age 34, David secured an assistant professorship at Utah Valley University, eventually serving as Professor of Philosophy, Professor of Environmental Studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of Ethics.

The single best decision that David ever made was marriage to Anina Merrill on a sunny October 1, 1994 afternoon in Rockville, Utah. Anina and David were introduced at the earliest age by their young mothers/best friends. Perhaps this underlay Anina and David’s natural ease with one another. Anina and David chose not to have children, forming the nuclear family on the pair. Anina and David lived in Hawaii and Utah, and reveled in traveling the world together–southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali), Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Middle East (Egypt and Sinai, Jerusalem, Jordan, Turkey), Greece, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Alaska. Toward the end of his life, David lived with Anina in downtown Salt Lake City and taught at UVU.

The greatest joy of his career was coming in contact with students and learning about the world together. Throughout his life, David strove to cherish elemental human relationships, embrace the temporal flow, find inspiration in sublimity and reject super-naturalism, and worry only about those things actually in one’s control. He succumbed to cancers resulting from complications of the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease with radiation thirty years earlier. David considered adenocarcinoma beyond one’s control. The important thing for David upon his death is that those intervening years were full of the exuberant and enthusiastic embrace of life. He was preceded in death by his beloved mother JoAnn.
His published work, research and writing focused on environmental and ecologic issues.

Friends who desire, may donate to the JoAnn O. Keller Scholarship for nontraditional women students at Utah Valley University Foundation, c/o Ms. Nancy L. Smith, 800 W University Parkway MS111, Orem, UT 84058 or environmental organizations of their choice.

Hotel California, The Remake

Editor’s Note: Mark Ruckstuhl and his wife Sharon have shared many great times with DK and Anina. Here Mark reflects on he and Sharon’s first visit to the Sierra Nevada mountains two summers ago:


Staying overnight in Quincy, CA was memorable because it was not planned. We had been camping for three days and we wanted a shower and hot meal. Anina breaks out her Lonely Planet book for the Sierra Nevadas and finds out about a funky, 6 room hotel in Quincy. It is a sleepy one horse town with very little going on downtown. We find the hotel. The proprietor is simultaneously running the hotel and a wine bar. She offers us a 2-bedroom suite with a full kitchen for $160.00, a bargain by East Coast standards. We ask her to recommend a place to eat. She tells us that the restaurant across the street has good food and live music on Wednesdays. For the next three hours we got cleaned up and sat on a porch drinking wine and micro brews purchased from the wine bar.

At the restaurant we feasted on burgers and listened to an impromptu jam session that happened to occur there every Wednesday. Musicians just kept coming in. They would sit aound drinking beers and when they wanted to play they would step into the circle. They locked the doors to the restaurant and for two more hours people danced and the music played.

We will never forget the great times that we have had traveling with Dave and Anina. We love you guys. Thanks for the memories.

Art Kleven on the Significance of 121 Springdale Street

Editor’s note: Art Kleven recalls the good old days in Athens, GA

Many hours were spent on the front porch of this house, enjoying cocktails (“some cockers!”) and high-minded discussion.

Springdale st

The Deacon held court over a diverse bunch, teaching us the rudiments of philosophy and the perfect way to stir a cocktail (or are the two really one and the same?). Just one quick stir–maybe, maybe one revolution with a spoon, certainly no more. By the end of the Deacon’s tenure, we had progressed to more advanced philosophic thought and drink-building. Our laughter, the Deacon’s above all, must still echo in that house.

Also remembering times mountain biking with The Deacon of Freakin’, Troy McAfee, and Patrick Hoppe. We had access to great single track, including an area that hosted a couple of national races. I remember riding hard late afternoons, then hitting The Globe for English pints or drinks back at the house. In good weather we would ride three or four nights a week, and sometimes something more extended, like Mountain in N. GA, on a weekend.

DK all the while earned his doctorate, taught classes, and kept up his active social life. Its amazing the physical and mental wattage he produced back then. DK rode a very large (of course) Cannondale frame. At one point he cracked it and after it was replaced, the old frame hung in the covered porch by the front door. When preparing to move from Athens he was faced with finally getting rid of it. A few us were talking about it, and DK flashed on the fact that the frame was 100% aluminum, put it in the household recycle bin (barely), and proudly walked it out to the curb, where it was picked up the next day. It may not seem so funny now, but that huge bike frame in the bin by the curb was quite a sight. DK is of course renowned for his intellect, but it is his sense of humor, often just downright goofy, that I recall most from those days. I think of DK and those times and remember a lot of laughter. And I always will.

Don’t Shoot, We’re Hippies Not Deer

I remember when The Deacon came to visit me in Washington, DC in the late 1980s.

Deacon Head

He lived in Boston at the time, where he was studying for his Masters in Philosophy. I worked at American Rivers on the Hill. We wanted to visit the Dolly Sods area of West Virginia for a weekend of camping, hiking and exploring. We headed westward in my ’76 VW camper, FNARIO. It was cold outside and we soon discovered that we had come to the woods during a busy weekend in the middle of deer hunting season. We had no orange gear to put on so the hunters would know we were hippies, not deer. Eventually, we gave up looking for a peaceful place to hike and camp and headed back into Virginia with a new plan. We made it to Shenandoah National Park and after paying the entry fee and entering the park, we looked up and saw something we had not seen on this trip—a herd of deer casually grazing in the grass, not a concern in the world. Clearly, we had entered a sanctuary where gentle deer and roaming freaks were free to mingle. With this good omen, we decided to go on a moonlit hike on an old mountain trail.

Portia Fieldstad Sings Sweet Song of Gratitude

Editor’ note: Once upon a time, Portia Fieldstad lived with DK and Bill Woolston in Sugarhouse.

Neffs 7-4-89

I was only 17 when we met and became housemates. I was young and naive and kind of crazy and stupid and hopeless. You were grounded and brilliant and driven, a huge and thoughtful scholar. And you never once begrudged me what I lacked. In fact, you were curious, genuinely interested in who I was and what I thought. We haven’t seen each other in about ten years (Kenyon’s wedding), and then too, you were a giant beam of a smile, wondering what had happened to me during the ten years prior. You have touched my life with such genuine kindness, David. My memories from the lifetime ago when we knew each other are filled with humor, curiosity, philosophy, goodness, and delight. I see you climbing mountains and crossing deserts. I see your knees steppin’ high while we dance.

“And the song, from beginning to end, I found in the heart of a friend.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thank you for sharing your sweet song, my friend.

Evan Sacks Reflects

Editor’s note: Evan Sacks met DK at Franklin & Marshall College in the 1980s.


Dave – I’m thinking about fond memories from younger days. You are one-of-a-kind, a genuine original, who made an impact on everyone you came across. I always considered you among the very few who treasured every breath of life and lived to the fullest in a way the rest of us can only envy. Even though we haven’t seen each other in some time I think of you often — especially when instructing my kids to put on an “extigular” — and want you to know I consider you a model of a man, intelligent, centered, confident, and with a contagious vibrancy, zest and style that will always survive in the people who were lucky enough to meet you. Through tears, I’m wishing you comfort and peace, and safe travels in the great journey ahead. Freak on, DK.