George Keener didn’t care who you were or what color your skin was. If you needed help, he would help, said his longtime friend Ralph Phillips.
“What he was doing was something that a lot of us talk about doing that we never get to do — being one to help everybody,” Phillips said of Keener, whom he got to know at the Xat’sull Heritage Village.
A small celebration of life was recently held for the Xatsull Cmetem (Soda Creek/Deep Creek) member who passed away on Nov. 30 at 88.
Keener was born in Sweet Water near Dawson Creek before he and his family moved to Williams Lake at a young age, where he learned his lifelong belief “it takes a community to raise a child.”
His family said he was taken to attend residential school at St. Joseph’s Mission but after a couple of years was sent home because he was ‘too dumb to be taught’ as the priest would say.
“This was a blessing as he was then taught the old ways,” Keener’s family said.
Keener worked in ranching and logging, and in 1947 would begin a more than 50-year involvement at the Williams Lake Stockyards.
He worked on many projects for the Friendship Centre from its 1969 inception to the 1985 groundbreaking of the main office building, his family said. A recent project was the completion of an outdoor mural depicting a medicine man and nine chiefs who went to Victoria, in which Keener had donated $1,500.
Cariboo Friendship Society executive director Rosanna McGregor recalled how society staff would have to take cheques to the stockyards to get their president’s signature.
After he retired from the stockyards in 2003, Keener could be found at the society’s centre located in downtown Williams Lake “joking around and carrying on and just being George,” McGregor said.
He served as the society’s president for numerous years, and until his death was a part of the board of directors.
In the 1970s Keener was also a supporter of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with his late life, Bonnie, as well the Sobriety movement which began at Alkali Lake in the 1970s.
“There was an AA roundup somewhere within the province almost every weekend,” McGregor said.
“I don’t recall them ever talking about how they would get money to get there, but they were going to an AA roundup somewhere,” she said.
Many foster kids were involved in Keener’s life over the years.
His family said he was Dad, Grampa, Uncle and Papa to many, which is a true legacy to his caring.
“One of his many favorite sayings was “sharing is caring,” and this included caring for ourselves,” they said.
Keener’s passing was also acknowledged by Williams Lake City Coun. Craig Smith, who was emotional when discussing the loss.
A tribute is planned to take place Sept. 17, 2021, on what would have been Keener’s 89th birthday.