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Entertaining and cooking for the ones she loves is at the core of Susan Keith’s life.
During a weekly family lunch, places at the table are set before everyone arrives. Food is prepared buffet-style. Glasses are refilled by the host and hostess and dessert is served with coffee.
It’s all about family. Keith, 77, used to fix lunch more than once a week but after a fall and use of a walker, she’s narrowed her cooking a bit. She often makes lunch for people outside the family as well.
Last week, about 20 people gathered for lunch.
She started the tradition when her husband, Roy, was diagnosed with diabetes. She noticed young people didn’t eat right and she didn’t want them to wind up in his situation. She wanted to teach her children, even as adults, how to have a balanced diet.
Because her home is near most of their workplaces, it also was faster to stop by her house at lunch.
An added benefit is when the family sees each other that often, they can keep up with one another and help each other.
“It’s just good, that kind of relationship,” Keith said. “Roy and I enjoy it, too.”
The gathering has gotten so big they outgrew the dining room and turned the living room into a dining room.
Desserts are her favorite dishes to prepare.
Keith was raised on a farm in Sonora and did a lot of cooking with her mother growing up. They cooked for the family and farmhands during harvest time. On the farm, she learned to cook with good, fresh food.
Growing up on a farm gave her an appreciation of God’s creation and the value of work, something she passed along to her own children.
One of her duties on the farm was to care for about 30 cats that kept mice out of farm buildings. She also was in charge of the chicken house and caring for any runts among the sheep.
Volunteering at church is another important aspect to her life. She’s been teaching a Sunday school class since she was 15 years old. For the past 18 years, she has taught a class full of women in their 90s at Severns Valley Baptist Church.
“I teach the best class in the world,” Keith said.
Many of them can’t drive, but they will do whatever they can to get to church. She’ll tell them if they can get to church, there’s no excuse for anyone else not to make it.
Keith calls her class the “smiling sisters” and they often check on each other and care for one another.
Also at Severns, Keith painted the backdrop and scenery for the Living Christmas Tree that formerly was presented at the church.
Her artistic skills also came in handy at the family business, Keith Monument Co. She created artwork for many of the monuments.
A love of children and interest in their education lead her to be a part of the Elizabethtown Independent Schools board in the 1970s and ’80s.
That drive to support education extended to the college level. The Keith’s two sons went to big universities, where she said they were treated like they were just numbers. Her husband told the three girls they had to go to Georgetown College for at least one year to get the smaller school experience and then they could go wherever they wanted.
The girls loved it and Keith found herself on the board of trustees at Georgetown.
Later, the school’s president called to give her a honorary Doctorate of Law. At first she told them she hadn’t gone to college a day in her life and that there were others more qualified to receive it. After he told her that her daughter, Mary, was going to be the speaker at the day’s ceremony, she finally said she’d accept it.
Keith has 14 grandchildren and loves them all, but prays for one grandchild more frequently than others because she is in the Peace Corps in Africa working in a village where there’s little food and the children have not even seen a pencil.
“She’s a tough little girl,” Keith said.
Keith’s recent fall might have slowed her down, but not much.
“She’s just rolling, in her four-wheel walker, along as usual,” Roy said.
She tells her children that life always changes and you just have to take the changes and make the best of it. She thinks of her fall as a wake up call to slow down and behave herself.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.