Russ Ringsak

Tom Keith: The real essence of the man

November 1, 2011

The first word that comes to mind about Tom Keith is Decent. And then comes the Good Natured and the Cheery; but the real essence of the man was the Timing and the Cool Under Pressure.

And this must certainly have helped him get through Marine Basic Training, and that training had to add confidence to a guy who already had enough of it to even sign up in the first place.

He would downplay compliments with a slightly crooked smile, almost as if he was surprised himself at how good he was at work in front of large high-tone and discerning audiences, creating bleating herd animals and sudden vocal gunshots; always, exactly and precisely, at the right time. Doors opened and people walked through, and silverware clinked, and pans rattled and wolves howled.

And he was a good smalltown baseball player and never bragged about that either, but in the early years of the show we saw him at work in the Jack's Auto Repair softball outfield enough to know he was a natural.

His modesty about the show-biz talent was pretty much how he was in general. Never once saw him sipping an alcoholic beverage. You could tell him a raunchy joke and he'd laugh but not feel obliged to return one. Seemed almost like a church person sometimes but if he was he never did say so.

I had known him quite a while before I found out he was a Marine, and discovered that only in a roundabout way when he told me about being in Asia. But it made sense, and it seemed to explain how unflappable he always was.

It's a real shock to lose him.

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