Paul E. Keith

Early Years

Our son was born on February 24, 1978 at 9:42 AM at O’Connor’s Hospital in San Jose, California. We named our strong 8 lb. 9 oz and 22″ inch baby boy Paul Edward Keith. Even at the time of his birth, we had chosen to name him after the apostle Paul and his paternal grandfather. Paul was not only strong in the physical at birth (holding his head up within hours of being born) but also in his life as his athletic pursuits show. In addition, Paul was very dedicated and had great follow through, which was evidenced that he was the only child who was not only born on his due date but at the time a doctor’s visit had already been scheduled.

Paul was our third child to be born. He had an older brother Brian who was seven years and five months older and an older sister Joy who was two years two months older. With his siblings, it was a definite blessing that he slept through the night within the first month of his birth. Since he was nursed, we jokingly called him a “barracuda” because of the aggressiveness and intensity with which he set his mind to do or accomplish something. This too was characteristic of his entire life.

When Paul was 13 months old, we moved from San Jose, CA. to Richland, WA. The neighborhood in which we lived had just built a neighborhood pool, which we joined. We frequently took the children up for a swim. Much to his Mom’s consternation, his Dad (a former lifeguard) had encouraged Paul (at 17 months old) to jump off the diving board and into Daddy’s arms. This was something that Paul loved and he continually wanted to “jump to Daddy.” After jumping into Daddy’s arms he would just kick to the side of the pool. We jokingly called him our “water baby.” In addition to swimming, Paul played t-ball and Little League, but swimming was always his first love in sports.

Paul’s baby sister Mary was born when he was 21 months old. Since we had no extended family in the area, we spent time enjoying each other. We did, however, make return trips down to visit Grandparents in San Jose and San Diego.

Paul’s baby sister Mary was born when he was 21 months old. Since we had no extended family in the area, we spent time enjoying each other. We did, however, make return trips down to visit Grandparents in San Jose and San Diego.

Paul did love life and God’s creation. He thoroughly enjoyed being out in nature. Our first extended camping trip was in a rented motorhome to Yellowstone National Park. At the time when we took hikes Paul had to be “coaxed.” He did not like hiking with the family. We alternated between either carrying him or encouraging him with some candy. This, however, dramatically changed because later in life he was always in the lead and the family rule was that he couldn’t get any further ahead than where we could see him. Even on his senior class campout weeks before he was killed, some of his classmates were angry because he kept such a fast pace and was so far ahead even though he was the only one carrying the backpack.

Paul attended a Montessori Pre-school at four years old. Prior to that, his education included what we were reading and the games we were playing with his older sister Joy.


Paul was always a water bug. He began competitive swimming at age six. By age seven he was swimming year round for the Tri-City Channel Cats, affiliated with Inland Empire Swimming, an Olympics development team. Paul was the top eight-year-old swimmer in the Inland Empire. He held the Inland Empire record in the breast stroke at eight years old. This was a record that he held for at least five years.

His awards included:

1. 1987 Inland Empire Jr. Olympics — High Point 8&U
2. 1986 Walla Walla Jr. Olympics — High Point 8&U
3. 1986 Yakima Invitational — High Point 8&U
4. 1987 Inland Empire Short Course — A-Championship — High Point 8&U
5. 1986 Eastmont Swim Team — Christmas Invitational — High Point 8&U
6. 1987 Inland Empire Swimmer Record Holder — 50 yd. Breast stroke 8&U Boys
7. 1987 Inland Empire A Championship Meet Record — 50 yd. Freestyle, 8&U Boys
8. 1987 Tri-City Channel Cats Team Record — 50 yd. Freestyle, Boys 8&U
9. 1987 Tri-City Channel Cats Team Record — 50 yd. Breaststroke, Boys 8&U
10. 1987 Tri-City Channel Cats Team Record — 50 yd. Butterfly, Boys 8&U
11. 1987 Tri-City Channel Cats Team Record — 50 yd. Backstroke, Boys 8&U
12. 1987 Yakima Harvest Invitational — High Point 9-10
13. 1986 EWRA — Autumn Invitational — High Point 8&U
14. 1986 TCCC — Most Outstanding Swimmer 8&U
15. 1988 Inland Empire Swimming Zone Team
16. 1988 Far Western Short Course Championships

Even after leaving year-round swimming, Paul stayed heavily involved in swimming and aquatics. He volunteered at the Richland municipal pool for five years as an aide. He earned his LGT (Life Guard Training) certification in 1994, WSI (Water Safety Instructor) certification in 1995 and LGI (Life Guard Instructor) certification in 1997. He worked as a lifeguard at Richland and Dearborn, Michigan through high school and college and trained other lifeguards. He coached the Richland city pool swim team for 2 years before giving up that position to do missionary work in Dearborn. His leadership was recognized when he was promoted to the pool management staff as assistant head lifeguard and then head lifeguard at Richland, supervising over 15 other guards. He was also head lifeguard at Dearborn.

Paul was always willing to help in whatever way he could. Mary Moore, his 8th grade science teacher related an incident to us from his high school years. She had asked him to lifeguard for a school swim party. “After the swim party I stopped by Paul’s house to leave a check for him. I’m not sure you know Paul never cashed the check. This really surprised me. You can’t tell me that a high school student has no need for extra money. He gave willingly of himself all through his life.”

Grade School through High School

Paul attended Christ the King Catholic School from kindergarten through 8th grade. He excelled academically, consistently 1 ? to 2 ? years above grade level in Iowa skill tests. In 1992, he received the 8th grade scholarship award and was selected by his classmates as the one best representing Christian values. He won First Prize in the school science fair in 1991 and won a $100 savings bond in the Mid-Columbia Regional Science and Engineering Fair plus the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Merit Award, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Award for Creative Scientific Endeavor in Aerospace Research and the Washington Society of Professional Engineers Auxiliary Award.

Paul graduated from Richland High School in 1996 with a GPA of 3.5. He received academic achievement awards in the Fall, 1993 and Fall, 1994. He participated in Running Start, a cooperative program with the local junior college where high school students take college classes and receive both college and high school credit. Paul entered Trinity Bible College with 15 college semester credits.

Paul showed his willingness to serve regardless of personal sacrifice from an early age. In the Catholic Church, he was an altar server for three years and trained new altar servers as they began, often sacrificing other activities. He taught pre-school, 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school and was a reader at Mass. He also put in long hours at the school’s annual Sausage Fest with set-up, take-down and garbage collection, helping wherever assistance was needed. In the Assembly of God Church, he taught pre-school and 1st and 2nd grade Sunday School and was a leader in the youth group. He rose early to attend Men’s Intercessory Prayer at 6:00 AM on Friday mornings. He was chosen by his peers and teachers to be one of two Baccalaureate speakers out of a class of approximately 300.

Paul made a missionary trip to Mexico while in high school. In order to earn money for college, he had to choose between missions work in Mexico or a vacation in Hawaii. He chose Mexico.

From about 6th grade on, he repeatedly declared he would be in full time ministry, originally as a priest and later as a minister when his affiliation moved from Catholic to Assembly of God. He was known early on as “Father Paul” and later as “Preacher Paul”. He was frequently teased and ridiculed for his unabashed religious convictions, but he would never back down from what he believed. He was a good listener and many have commented about his being their counselor.

We have joked for many years about the time Mary at about age ten declared, “I want Paul to marry me!” At first Mom and Dad puzzled over how to explain the “facts of life” that you can’t marry your brother. Then we all had a good laugh when we realized that she was referring to his performing the ceremony. We all agreed that was a good idea and Paul promised he would. Mary was married on June 30, 2000, but she had to find a substitute for the brother who had made that promise ten years earlier.

Paul didn’t just show leadership potential, he provided leadership. Paul helped start a Christian Bible club at Richland High School called Youth On Fire. He served as president in his senior year and worked hard to network with Youth On Fire leaders from other schools. Later he served in student government at Trinity Bible College. He regularly donated blood and organized blood drives at Trinity where they had not previously had them. He wanted the college president to participate in his first blood drive, but when he spoke to him he would not commit. The president, Dr. Young, told us Paul’s response was, “Are you a leader or a wiener?” Dr. Young was grateful he could tell Paul he was going to be out of town because blood made him squemish.

Another way that Paul showed leadership was in cheerleading. Richland High had not had a male cheerleader in ten years. Paul stood up to the ridicule and reestablished male cheerleaders.

He played basketball on the junior varsity squad and three years in Little League baseball. In junior high he also spent three years in Boy Scouts. Significantly, 8th grade was when his love of drama was ignited.


Paul loved drama and saw it as an important tool of ministry. He continued his drama experience into high school, being in Drama Club all four years. He appeared in:

1. Scapino (Lead)
2. The Outsiders (Lead)
3. Leader of the Pack
4. Up the Down Staircase
5. Sleep Tight Tonight
6. I Saw Another Butterfly
7. Fame
8. Night of January 16th (Lead)

His many drama awards included:

1. Lettered in Drama 1995, 1996
2. 1992-93 – Best Freshman Actor
3. 1994-95 – Best Junior Actor
4. 1995-96 – Best Back Stage Crew Male
5. 1995-96 – Most Inspirational

Paul’s devotion to drama was not limited to just the high school environment. During this period he also appeared in productions by the Richland Light Opera Company of West Side Story, Meet Me in St. Louis and Shenandoah in which he played a lead as one of the sons.

Paul extended his use of drama to other areas. He participated in the Government in Action Mock Trial. His English teacher, Mrs. Robin Morris, said “My memories of Paul are so vibrant and alive, especially as our current mock trial team goes to state. I will never forget his showing up for districts with his head shaved! What a tribute to his acting ability that he could be convincing as a principal whose values were so opposite to Paul’s. His memory will live on for me and for other students as I share Paul’s love of life and his dedication with them.”

He performed in Jazz Choir and Honors Chorale for two years. This required that he be at daily 7:00 AM practices. His dreams included combining drama and music in ministry. He performed several plays at Richland Assembly and enjoyed doing human videos, performing drama to a recorded song.

Charles Deyo, the father of Amy, Paul’s fiancÈ, told us of a time he saw Paul playing a hood in a drama. “I wasn’t sure I wanted Paul dating my daughter. He was so convincing, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t really part of his past life.”

Paul’s work ethic was nothing short of extraordinary for his age. He always took the personal initiative to skills necessary for life. He had his own checking account from age 13. With a full academic load, heavy involvement in sports and drama, Paul also held various jobs. In grade school, he was a newspaper carrier, walking to deliver papers at 5:30 AM and doing all the necessary financial reports. In high school, he was a cook at Dairy Queen, a stock clerk and checker for Payless Drug Store and a volunteer aide, lifeguard, swim instructor, lifeguard trainer and swim coach. The clerks at Payless comment about all the fights that Paul started; they all fought to get Paul assigned to their area because he was such a hard worker.

Trinity Bible College

The best years of life for Paul were at Trinity Bible College. Whereas he suffered repeated rejection and ridicule for his strong Christian walk in grade school and high school, at Trinity he was amongst his own. There he blossomed. There he was fired with dedication to the call on his life to ministry. There he solidified his vision for the use of drama in ministry.

Paul graduated Magna Cum Laude (Honoris Causa) with a 3.74 GPA. He was senior class vice-president and junior class president. Also he was listed in “Who’s Who Among College Students.” He was elected Freshman class vice-president, Junior class president and Senior class vice-president, another testimony of his leadership being recognized by his peers.

He was licensed as an Assemblies of God minister by the North Dakota board, having completed all requirements and interviews before his death. At the time of his death, he was interviewing for several youth minister positions in the Mid-West and Plains states. Dr. Leon Freitag, District Superintendent of the North Dakota District Council of the Assemblies of God wrote us regarding Paul’s licensing interview, “Paul had a heart for God and was anxious to enter full time ministry with his new bride, Amy.”

At Trinity, Paul found the love of his life in Amy. Their romance was legendary on campus. Paul was always coming up with new ways to show his love – through a room full of balloons or two dozen roses on Amy’s desk. Amy’s co-workers were jealous of the ways Paul expressed his love and admiration to Amy and were amazed at his creativity. Paul and Amy loved to take walks through the Aberdeen, SD Storybook Land park or drive to ministry events. They would dream together about their future ministry and their life together.

Paul was absolutely committed to saving himself for marriage. He wore a chastity ring as a symbol and a reminder of his commitment. When he and Amy traveled to Washington, they drove without taking an overnight stop to avoid even the appearance that they were staying in a motel together. For that reason, they were on I-90 in Dear Lodge at 3:30 AM on March 4, 2000.

Paul focused his life on giving. He sacrificed the month of May, 1997 to go on Spring Tour with the drama group Pure Heart. They toured for that month putting on dramas and youth conferences. His door was always open to classmates who needed someone to listen. We have been told over and over again by his classmates how he touched so many lives, how he stood out above the rest. The volleyball coach that he worked with told us of how he had prevented the suicide of one girl by ministering to her. When his nephew, Chris Keith, was struggling with his parents’ divorce, Paul was the only one who could reach him.

Donovan Dock tells us of one incident of Paul’s generosity. Donovan came from a poor family and had never owned a suit. In his senior year he received a preaching assignment and borrowed a suit from Paul. The next week during chapel service Paul was wearing the same suit and said to Donovan, “You like my suit?” Donovan said, “You know I do.” Paul replied, “It’s yours.” And he gave it to him.

Paul had a passion to serve that seemed boundless. He was an usher and greeter at the Ellendale Assembly of God and he frequently traveled to Hope Assembly of God in Foreman, ND to help them establish that church. He had preached at Hope Assembly, Richland Assembly, Word of Faith Center in Kennewick, WA, Church of the Nazarene in Oakes, ND and at Trinity Bible College chapel services. He loved to use illustrated sermons, combining drama and preaching. Once when he preached to the youth group at Word of Faith Center, to demonstrate stripping off the things of the old man, he stripped down to swim trunks. Then to show how Satan distorts our view of the world, he stood on his hands. That sermon is still talked about in the youth group 3 years later.

The summer of 1999 he resigned from head lifeguard of the Richland city pool to take a lifeguarding job in Dearborn, Michigan. This job was lower pay plus he had to pay his own living expenses, but his goal was ministry to Muslim children in the inner city. To that end he was willing to make whatever sacrifice it took.

While at Trinity, he refereed and coached volleyball. He volunteered as a coach for two years in Fredrick, SD. He was named coach of North Star Junior High, Fredrick, SD and assistant varsity coach at Fredrick High School. In addition he assisted the Trinity volleyball coach for three years.

Even in Death

Even in death, his final act of giving through organ donation today continues to give life to others. Mrs. Mary Moore, Paul’s 8th grade science teacher told us, “I remember he (Paul) talked to me about being an organ donor one day when he was in my 8th grade science class. He knew then that he was going to have that on his driver’s license one day.” Organ donation required that we answer several pages of questions regarding drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, etc. They were easy questions for us, but we recognized how many parents in that situation would have a very difficult time, either because they were not close to their child or their child’s life made the answers difficult.

The entire focus of Paul’s life was on building others up, seeing their lives touched for the better. Whether through drama, preaching, mentoring, an encouraging word or just a smile, he sought to be a servant. At his funeral, approximately 600 people attended, many commenting on how Paul had touched their lives in a special way. Gill and Corinne addressed those gathered:

“To ‘The Bud’ (Paul):
When you were small, we carried you.
As you grew, we cheered you on.
When you reached a point of decision, we let you fly.

Whether you were exploding from the swimmer’s starting blocks, captivating the audience in a school play, or declaring the Word of God from the pulpit, we were always proud of you. We have no regrets, Paul.

Now we release you one last time. Fly on home. Give Amy our love. We’ll see you on the other side.

Our love always, Ma and Pops

To All Our Friends,

We’ve come to the final chapter, time to close the book. Hopefully you can agree with me, I’d like to read that story again. I believe we will read this life again in hundreds and thousands of lives that Paul has touched in life and in death. As we conclude, please hear Paul say to each of us, ‘Remember, Jesus loves you.’

With our love and thanks,

Gill and Corinne and family”