John Livingston Keith, known by many as "Ranger," known by others as "Johnny," but known mostly as a friend to those whose lives he touched, died March 13, 2011, at his home in Las Cruces. He was 78.
John was born Jan. 23, 1933, in Norman, Okla., and grew up in a house about 100 yards from Owen Field at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, home of the University of Oklahoma Sooners football team. This would have an indelible impact on John's life.
John's father, Harold Keith, was the longtime sports information director at OU, and his mother, Virginia Livingston Keith, was an accomplished artist who liked to draw and paint.
After graduating from Norman High School in 1951, John played the four-string plectrum banjo professionally, traveling with the Clyde McCoy Band. Music remained a lifelong passion.
John later returned to Oklahoma to complete his collegiate studies, earning a degree from Central State University, now the University of Central Oklahoma, in 1963.
His first job after college was in 1964 as a sports writer and cartoonist for the Boulder (Colo.) Camera. In 1965, he began work as a sportswriter for the Tulsa (Okla.) World, and in 1966 joined the Oklahoma Journal in Oklahoma City.
In 1967, John moved to Manhattan, Kan., where he began following in his father's footsteps, working as an assistant sports information director at Kansas State University.
In 1968, he returned to OU as assistant sports information director, serving with his father, whom he succeeded a year later.
From 1969-78, John was SID at OU during a tenure that saw coaches Chuck Fairbanks and Barry Switzer keep the Sooners at or near the top of the national college football polls. John's career as OU SID was bookended by Heisman Trophy awards: Steve Owens in 1969 and Billy Sims in 1978.
John left OU and spent a year working on a comic strip, "O'Bradovich," but when it did not get syndicated in enough newspapers for his liking, he returned to college sports, taking a job as sports information director at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
He served at UNM from 1979 until 1987, when he was recruited by Texas A&M University head football coach Jackie Sherrill to become sports information director there. In 1989, he left Texas A&M to become community relations director for the Houston Oilers.
In 1991, John returned to New Mexico, serving as public information officer for the City of Las Cruces until his retirement in 1995.
But full retirement did not work for John Keith, and he found himself in the mountains of southern Colorado, in a small town called La Veta. John's parents owned a house there, and Virginia loved to paint the mountainscapes. At the weekly newspaper, the La Veta/Cuchara Signature, John returned to cartooning, and wrote a humor column that earned awards from the Colorado Press Association.
Longing to return to the warmth of southern New Mexico, John came back in 1997 to work for the Las Cruces Sun-News as a sportswriter. In 2003, he took the position of sports editor at the Las Cruces Bulletin, a position he held until his death.
John had great love for his dogs, most notably his longtime companion Speaker, a golden lab mix. He enjoyed hiking in the Gila Wilderness with Speaker. John also enjoyed running, and in the 1970s ran two marathons.
John is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Duke and Mona Keith, grandchildren, Sarai, Ysaac, Casey and Amanda, and one great grandson, Kaleb, all of El Paso, Texas. He is also survived by a sister, Kathleen Hollinger of Houston, Texas.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Harold and Virginia Keith, and a son, Casey.
He was married for 25 years to Novie Keith of Albuquerque.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 19, 2011, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church of Las Cruces, 518 N. Alameda Blvd., with Fr. Daniel Cave officiating. A reception will follow at The Game Sports Bar & Grill, 2605 S. Espina St., in Las Cruces.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the El Caldito Soup Kitchen, c/o St. Andrew's, 518 N. Alameda Blvd., Las Cruces NM 88005.
Arrangements by Getz Funeral Home, 575-526-2419. To sign the online guestbook visit www.GetzCares.com