Tribute to Keith
Once again with a broken heart I sit at my keyboard as I struggle to find the words to write a tribute and say goodbye to another RFH and Associates inspector. Keith Pamper was not my employee, although I did send him a tax form every year. Keith liked to call me boss, I think because he knew it made me uncomfortable and he liked when I told him not to call me boss because it was never a term that felt right to me. I certainly never needed to boss Keith, I always thought of him as a friend that worked with me.
Keith actually had the opportunity to buy the company before I did, he worked with Rich who founded RFH and Associated in 1994. Keith was the first inspector that Rich trained. Keith did his share of training Rich, as Rich was one of the volunteer divers. Keith had many roles at the Shedd one of them was as the safety dive instructor at the Shedd Aquarium. Keith’s passion was his full time work at the Shedd and so I bought the company and Keith continued to work for me part time.
When I think of Keith I always catch myself smiling. He was funny, engaging, compassionate and passionate, he was very intelligent, loyal, a hard worker, he loved to learn, he was sweet and a kind soul. It saddens me that it was only after his death that I learned so many things I never knew about him. Keith was one of the rare ones that had an impact on everyone he met, he left this planet much better than he found it.
Keith took my daughter Candace and I on a behind the scene tour of the Shedd, he showed us laboratories and some of the breeding tanks. He shared his endless knowledge of all the marine life at the Shedd, much of which he was apart of collecting on the many diving trips that the Shedd sent him and a team on.
Keith and I worked on many inspections together. If I had a large house or an apartment building to inspect I would have him help with those inspections. He covered for me when I was out of town. I only received positive reviews from the clients that he inspected for. Keith and I went to our continuing education classes together all the time. He would remind me and send me the classes that we would be taking. It was always a couple hours of drive time and a lunch break and 8 hours of us rolling our eyes and making jokes about the class we were taking. I am so going to miss him being there. What was once dreaded continuing education hours are now treasured time spend with him. We talked a lot, laughed a lot and shared a lot.
It is at the request of his family that I share that Keith suffered from depression, and he ultimately took his own life. As if the loss of Keith wasn’t enough the fact that he suffered before my very eyes and many others and yet I didn’t know. The family wanted this shared to raise awareness, something I admit I desperately needed. Mental illness many times is not treated properly, there is a sigma that must be broken. If you feel you suffer from depression or any metal illness or struggles please know there is help, that you are loved, that you matter. There is nothing to be ashamed of, there is treatment, there is support, there is hope, there is a future.
It’s never easy to say goodbye and maybe we never really do, he will always be apart of RFH and Associates and he will always be someone that I know made me a better person just by getting to know him. He is missed by many, loved by all that knew him. He was a kind man, gone to soon, A life well lived on his terms.
Please consider making a donation to the Shedd Aquarium in Keith Pampers name or to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.