SANFORD - Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller have created a legacy of care for others. Now, their legacy will continue through the Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller Health Sciences Building on the Central Carolina Community College Lee County Campus.
It's certainly a deserved tribute, considering the Keller's generosity to the school and to the community over the years. It's also fitting considering the number of health care graduates the Kellers have hired for their health care facilities and services throughout the years.
An official ceremony recognizing this tribute was held Tuesday, Dec. 1, on the CCCC Campus.
Among those present for the event were Mr. Keller and his three children - Oscar A. "Buddy" Keller III, Judy Keller Normann and Linda Keller Kelly, along with many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There's even a great-great-grandchild.
Elderlene Keller passed away in December 2014.
"We are here today to honor Oscar Keller on a day that is truly his day - Oscar Keller, Jr. Day as declared by the Lee County Commissioners and the Sanford City Council," said Julian Philpott, Chairman of the CCCC Board of Trustees. Philpott went on to say that the Kellers have graciously supported the college financially and with their time and talents. "This support has never wavered and I believe we have all been influenced in some way by Oscar and Elderlene's example."
Among those honoring Mr. Keller were Sanford Mayor Chet Mann and Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Amy Dalrymple.
"From the City of Sanford and the Office of Mayor, I'm very, very proud of Mr. Keller," said Mayor Mann. "Today is your day and it is well deserved."
"I think Mr. and Mrs. Keller through their lives have set a great example for all of us," said Chairwoman Dalrymple.
CCCC President Dr. T.E. Marchant noted that the mark of a great man is not how much he accumulates, but how much he gives away. "During the 52 years that this college has been in existence, Mr. Keller has been a supporter in every conceivable way," said Dr. Marchant. "Mr. Keller, on behalf of the thousands of students who have come through Central Carolina Community College, I say thank you. And on behalf of the thousands yet to come who will go through this building and into the world of work in health care, I say thank you. We certainly appreciate everything that you have done ... this is certainly a highlight in the history of this college."
Mr. Keller thanked those in attendance. "All of you are part of what this community is all about ... I love this community college, I love Sanford, North Carolina, and Lee County. I'm extremely proud of everything we've ever done," he said.
Mr. Keller started his working career for the Progressive Grocery Store and went to Sanford Business College. He met and married Mary Elderlene Roseman. They had $26 between the two of them the day they got married. They began their life together and were married for 73 years before her death at age 91. He has three children, nine grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Mr. Keller has been a pioneer in business and civic organizations in Lee County. Starting one of the first nursing homes in the state and holding North Carolina Nursing Home Administrator license number one and being a charter member of the Sanford Jaycees are some illustrations of his vision and love for Lee County. His concern and care for thousands of Lee County's elderly has provided a rewarding career and family business. He genuinely cares for each resident as if they were his family and due to the fact that he is still working at age 94, he can identify with many issues facing the elderly population.
His selflessness and sometimes anonymous dedication and donations to individuals and organizations such as Central Carolina Community College, the Bread Basket, the Boys and Girls Club, Cameron Boys Home, Louisburg College, YMCA, and numerous local churches and charities shows his deep commitment in helping improve the lives of others and the overall standard of living in Lee County. Through his contacts at the state and federal levels, he has helped Lee County in many ways.
Mrs. Keller was a graduate of Sanford High School, Sanford Business College, and Central Carolina Community College (nursing). She worked side-by-side with her husband in their various professional health care endeavors.
"What a great recognition for two very deserving people," said daughter Linda Keller Kelly. "Dad had a vision of building and operating a nursing home, which became one of the first in this state. My Mom thought he was a dreamer, but she helped him implement his vision. Banks would not loan them money and they truly became the epitome of self-made individuals. Nights and days were filled with continuous work, as janitor, cook, housekeeper, or whatever was needed. Three children were raised in the nursing home and quickly turned into responsible adults.
"During this time, Mom returned to college and entered the first nursing class at Central Carolina Community College. These two individuals worked tirelessly and made many sacrifices to care for the elderly. It is truly a hard job, but they made many friends along the way. I thank them for giving me their values, which includes a strong faith, good work ethic, and sincere love of work, family, and friends."
The Kellers were the very first donors to the Central Carolina Community College Foundation - and have hired many CCCC graduates. Their grandson, Jamie Kelly, has served as a CCCC Trustee. Their grandson, Kel Normann, is a past board member of the CCCC Foundation and has been associated with the College and Foundation for many years
Jamie Kelly said his grandparents instilled a sense of family and community services that has shaped him into the person he is today. "I am so proud of their accomplishments in family, business, and community, and this naming recognition that will honor them forever. It's truly fitting for two of the finest of Lee County," he said.
Kel Normann said the recognition for his grandparents is a great honor. "It warms my heart because I know what Sanford and Lee County have meant to him," said Normann. "My grandmother was a graduate of the nursing program here and had a strong passion for it and its graduates. This honor would make her very proud."
Normann said it was his grandfather who got him started with the CCCC Foundation. "He's always had a passion for that," said Normann. "He has always thought the community college has played a tremendous role in the community."
Oscar A. "Buddy" Keller III noted that the naming dedication of the Health Sciences Building is a proud day for the entire family.
The new Health Sciences Building was one of four college bond projects approved by Lee County voters in November 2014. Construction is scheduled to begin in December 2016 with completion in March 2018.
Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller have created a legacy of care for others. Now, their legacy will continue through the Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller Health Sciences Building on the Central Carolina Community College Lee County Campus.
Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees Chairman Julian Philpott (left) listens as Oscar A. Keller Jr. (second from right) addresses the audience at the Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller Health Sciences Building Dedication.
Pictured with Oscar A. Keller Jr. (seated) are his children (standing, left to right): Judy Keller Normann, Oscar A. "Buddy" Keller III, and Linda Keller Kelly.
Amy Dalrymple, Chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, reads a proclamation declaring Dec. 1, 2015, as Oscar A. Keller Jr. Day in Lee County. The City of Sanford also honored Mr. Keller with a similar proclamation. Seated next to Chairman Dalrymple are Sanford Mayor Chet Mann and Oscar A. Keller Jr.
Former North Carolina Secretary of State Rufus Edmisten (right) shares a moment with Oscar A. Keller Jr. at the Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller Health Sciences Building Dedication ceremony.
The Oscar A. Keller Jr. family was pictured at the Oscar A. Keller Jr. and Elderlene R. Keller Health Sciences Building Dedication ceremony.