Melba Ruth Holland Keen, 94, passed away peacefully in her sleep at home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Dec. 23, 2021.  

She was born Jan. 4, 1927, on Slow Tom Creek in Witter, Arkansas, the daughter of Esley “Pete” and Emma (Emmer) Holland.

Mother grew up roaming the hills and valleys of Madison County but after graduating from Huntsville High School in 1946, she moved to Fayetteville, where she was a lifelong resident. She met the love of her life, Bill Keen, married, and spent the next seventy-five years living and raising a family in the Baldwin community. After Bill’s death, she continued to live on the home place, with her family in and out visiting, picking and grinning, playing games, and celebrating holidays. She was always ready to attend and cheer on grandkids or great-grandkids for any event in which they were participating. She loved to go on rides to see new country. She was interested in everything and would ask questions to feed that curiosity to the end. Mom was full of life, she was a force to be reckoned with, she stood up for and stated what she believed in.

One of the most important parts of mother’s life was her strong faith in God and following Him through the path shown by Jesus Christ. She truly believed the closer we followed the precepts of the Bible the better our lives would be and the greater our influence on our own families; besides her giving us life this is the greatest gift she gave us. Mom did not just talk her faith, she lived it by being an active member of the Baldwin Church of Christ for over seventy years.

Another item stressed by mother was education. She believed through a good education you could accomplish almost anything. It was hard to earn a high school diploma when you lived in Madison County in the 1940s but her parents realized she could have a better life so they allowed her to room in town to attend school. There is no doubt this step set her life on a different path, and she respected and stressed the benefits of a good education to all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  

Mother worked outside the home in several jobs through the years but her main one was as a telephone operator, early on at SW Bell and later in life for the University of Arkansas. She made several friends through these jobs and kept in contact with them.

She was preceded in death by her husband, William H. (Bill) Keen; her parents; two brothers, Holly Holland and Wayne Holland; an infant sister, Maxine; an aunt of the home, Esther Dennis and her two sons James Dennis and Euel Dennis; a daughter-in-law, Sheri Starr Keen; two sons-in-law, Lendel Thomas and Bob Moore; and one grandson, Russell Keen.

She is survived by eight children: Linda Winters (Malcolm), Richard Keen (Lori), Vicki Moore, John Keen (Lisa), Patti Thomas, Sandi Phillips, Randy Keen (Nancy), and Kendall Keen (Susan). Also, 15 grandchildren: Shannon Hubanks, Casey Mac Winters, Mia Meenen, Sonya Post, Corey Keen, Autumn Hawkins, Austin Phillips, Cody Keen, Charity Beth Phillips, Kevin Keen, Emily Noetzl, Kara Nichols, Taylor Keen, Patrick Keen, Natalie Keen; 22 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; multiple nieces and nephews; great-nieces and great-nephews.

Mother’s death has left a hole in our family’s lives which cannot be filled, but we draw comfort from knowing where she is.  There she is reunited with dad, who she missed more and more with each passing year. We will remember how she loved watching her kids play ball, playing her guitar and singing with the boys, the Razorbacks, and a good ole coke.  But most of all we will remember her love and pride in us; her example will influence us for decades to come.

The Keens  met with family and friends for visitation on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, at Beard’s Funeral Chapel. 

Funeral services were held at Baldwin/Cornerstone Church of Christ on Dec. 29, 2021, led by Robert G. (Bobby) Dockery and Randall Caselman.  

Interment followed at Hester Cemetery.

The family would like to thank all who helped make their mother’s last months and days so comfortable, especially her caregiver Eileen Messner Prince and hospice nurse, Alma, with Washington Regional.  

If you wish to make a donation in her memory, Gospel Tracts International was one of her favorite organizations. (Its address is 2125 N. Central St., Fayetteville, AR  72701).

Services were entrusted to Beard’s Funeral Chapel.