William Bill Bruce Keys, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, November 25, 2020, at the age of 96 at Well-Spring Retirement Community in Greensboro, N.C.
A private family service will be held at a later date at Faith Presbyterian Church.
Bill was born in Bristol, Virginia, the son of Reverend Dr. Walter King Keys and Eleanor Fell Fickle Keys. While growing up, Bill often roamed the woods and streams of the Bristol and later Roan Mountain areas, enjoying hunting and fishing. His father, affectionately known by the family as Papa Keys, was a Presbyterian minister at several churches in those areas through the years. In the 1940s, the Keys family moved to Blowing Rock, and after graduating from Blowing Rock High School Bill attended Davidson College.
His college days were interrupted by WWII, when Bill enlisted in the Air Force 4 days after turning 19, in 1942. After the war, Bill completed his degree at Davidson and moved to Greensboro, where he resided the rest of his life. He took a job at Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company (later Jefferson-Pilot and now Lincoln Financial) where he worked until his retirement 40+ years later. Another interruption came in 1952 when he again served in the Air Force, this time in the Korean War as a navigator in aircraft that re-fueled jets in mid-air. When he retired from Jefferson-Pilot he was the Senior Manager of the data processing department.
Bill embodied the virtue and quiet nobility of his generation by setting an example of a life well-lived. He grew up during the Great Depression and valued hard work, loyalty, and patience. He was easygoing, with a ready smile and a quick thumbs up. He could also mix a legendary whiskey sour. He showed pride in his family and was ever-supportive with both consistent encouragement and an occasional bit of advice that was measured, thoughtful, and wise.
Bills hobbies reflected his love for the outdoors: when the children were young, he went on annual hunting trips to Mattamuskeet. Most nights after work, he either walked a few holes of golf or fished in the ponds near the house. He also enjoyed watching and reading about sports of all kinds. During his retirement, Bill enjoyed fly fishing adventures in the mountains of North Carolina, the Great Lakes, and Alaska. In the winter months, he tied hundreds of trout flies and built custom fly rods that will be a part of his legacy to friends and family for years to come.
20 years ago, Bill and his wife June moved to Well-Spring Retirement Community, where they flourished and enjoyed making new friends, having old friends visit, and enticing some friends to move to Well-Spring permanently. Bill and June loved their time there and the family is appreciative of the loving care and comfort that was provided.
He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 53 years, June Crockett Keys; and brother Tommy Keys. Bill is survived by his son, Walter Wat Keys and wife Vania of Cary, NC and daughter, Barbara Bab Keys Westall and husband Tom of Denver, NC; grandchildren Crockett Clark, Joseph Keys, and Ben Keys, and his sister, Julia Keys Williams of St Augustine, FL.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to JDRF (Bills grandson Ben has Type 1 diabetes and has a team at tinyurl.com/keysfamily) or JDRF, c/o Sarah Cunningham for Ben Keys team, Triangle & Eastern NC Market, 105 Westpark Dr., #415, Brentwood, TN 37027, in memory of Bill Keys.
Hanes-Lineberry North Elm Chapel is serving the Keys family. Online condolences may be made at haneslineberryfhnorthelm.com