Gene Edward Keller, 63, of Harlowton, lost his battle with advanced cancer just 3 ½ months after diagnosis, on Sunday, November 1, 2020. A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, November 14th at 11:00 AM in the Rose Room Chapel at Croxford Funeral Home. Due to the COVID restrictions of 50 or less attendants, the Service will be Livestreamed for those unable to attend and the recording available for later viewing.
Born on January 16th, 1957 in Belt, MT to Russell and Elenora (Bohn) Keller, Gene was the 4th child of 4 and the only boy, with sisters, Nadine Hardinger, Paulette Ratliff and Donna Lewis. Gene attended school in Belt, graduating from Belt Valley High School in 1976. After graduation he apprenticed with Bob Murray Construction. He met and later married Beth Bruno on April 7, 1979, and although this union would end in divorce in 1999, together they had three sons, Eric, Karl (stillborn) and Kyle.
After working several winters at Walter Johnson’s ranch in Belt, he decided to work for his father at Russ Keller Builders as a carpenter. He joined the U.S. Army in 1982 with his first duty station in Fort Ord, CA. In 1984 he received orders sending them to Babenhasen, Germany. In 1985 they welcomed Kyle into the family and shortly after they returned to Great Falls. Gene left the Regular Army and joined the Army Reserve. Gene started working for Northwest Fence and Williamson Fencing, but as Desert Storm began, he was with the initial Reservists sent into combat and spent six months in the Middle East.
Gene’s Reserve Unit was again activated in 2003 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. While his unit was staging at Fort Lewis, WA he met Tena Johnson through a mutual friend in his Reserve Unit. Thirty-two days later, Gene managed to get a weekend leave to come home and get married. Unfortunately, this weekend leave turned into a 24-hour leave, but on April 17 they managed to get married, and he gained not only a wife, but a daughter too, Jessica Johnson.
A little over a year later he returned home, retired from the Army Reserve and went back to work at Williamson Fence. In 2006 the happy family moved to Harlowton to be close to Tena’s parents. They moved back into Tena’s old house and both found employment working for rocky Mountain Cookware making griddles.
When the Harlowton Gardens became available, they bought it and re-named it Keller’s Harlowton Gardens. They ran the business for 12 years, as a florist and greenhouse, with Gene doing mowing each summer. In the winter Gene would work on his woodworking by making wooden gameboards and would sell them at holiday craft shows.
Gene and Tena were blessed with four grandchildren, Lizebeth, Audrey, Eleanore and Howard. Gene always managed to find time to spend with kids and grandkids and a bit of camping too. Gene retired at the age of 62 and spent more time camping, woodworking and quality time with family.
To help the family with expenses, you are welcome to send a sympathy donation to www.Gofundme in Gene’s name. Condolences may be shared with the family at www.croxfordfuneralhome.com
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