Celebration of Life
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Life Story / Obituary
William “Bill” Margraff Keely, of Traverse City, passed away October 27th 2018, at the age of 80.
Bill was born on September 25th, 1938 in Milwaukee, WI., the son of Leroy and Gertrude (Margraff) Keely.
The family moved to Ann Arbor during Bill’s primary school years, where he attended Ann Arbor High and ultimately became part of the first graduating class of the “new” Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in 1956. It was during these formative years that Bill developed a penchant for tearing down and rebuilding all things electronic, which surely were the nascent beginnings for some of the many talents he ultimately developed and cherished. While still in high school, Bill became a reel-to-reel theater projectionist, rotating duties among the many iconic local commercial theaters and drive-ins of the day in Ann Arbor, some of which still remain and prosper. Bill became enamored with all things communication and media, and his interests followed the times. From the early years of sitting in the living room following radio dramas with family, to earning a Ham Radio license before he could even drive a car. While still at home he also took up a great interest in photography, one that had grown into a full blown darkroom operation that quickly rebranded his mother’s fruit cellar. Later, while still in Ann Arbor, Bill took flying lessons and earned his license to fly solo.
Bill’s interests in the radio/film (and later television) media ultimately led him to Michigan State University. He rigged early CCTV setups for the university and as a job was an “on-air” personality for WBCH in Hastings where he was a news reader and ad writer. He also continued to work as a projectionist in the Lansing area, notably at the Lansing Drive-In and Michigan Theater. During off-seasons and returns to Ann Arbor, Bill also enjoyed a part time job driving a cab for Yellow/Checker Cab Co.
While doing undergrad work at Michigan State, Bill joined the ROTC, as well as the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. His affinity for the medias led him to be the first in the Frat House to have ‘stereo’ equipment, and he was thereby dubbed “HiFi” by the housemates. For other entertainment during the early college years, Bill would fly Piper Cub prop planes based out of the local grass strip runway.
Following his Bachelor of Arts degree at MSU and having risen through the ROTC “HiFi” took a backseat as Bill then became known as “Lieutenant Keely” during the cold war with Russia that was now festering in Europe. For the next few years Lieutenant Keely was responsible for a platoon of fully loaded combat tanks as a leader for Company A, 2d Heavy Tank Battalion, 33d Armor, based in Aschaffenburg, Germany. The platoon was tasked with being ready to deploy towards the ever-present threat of advancing Russians with a mere 20 minutes notice. It only became known years later that had the Russians began a western offensive to further expand communism, the true goal of the platoon was to merely slow down the Red Army advance into West Germany, and a life expectancy of the entire platoon (known only to the two most senior officers at the time) was calculated to be less than 24 hours.
It was during this time of deployment in Germany that Bill had an unexpected personal reconnection from home, one that would lead to his marriage to Sylvia Wanda Malecki. After being released from active duty, the couple returned stateside and Bill signed up for Grad School at MSU, ultimately earning a Master’s Degree in Communication Arts in 1966. During this time two sons were born, Scott and Steve.
Later, after the Army and grad school, Bill obtained his commercial, land/sea, multi-engine and instrument ratings flight certifications. He also earned a DeVry Institute of Technology electronics degree, which aided him in many of his future personal and professional endeavors.
With the Army behind and the real world looming ahead, Bill became an Industrial Relations Representative at Ford’s Engineering and Research Center in Dearborn, followed by Personnel Manager at King-Seeley in Ann Arbor. But a strong desire to work for himself, along with the allure of a few visits to the Traverse City area had taken root, leading to the purchase of the Giant Plaza Maytag Laundry in 1969. The family moved up to Traverse City and Bill ran the business for the next 34 years, selling the business and ‘retiring’ in 2003. During this time Bill made many, many good friends and acquaintances at the store, and many have remained such. Not one more important though, than Marilyn Rose Ellis-Keely, whom he met while there and became Bill’s life partner and greatest supporter, from nearly the day that they met in 1980. Her love and unwavering support has propelled their happiness for the better part of 40 years.
During his time in Traverse City, Bill enjoyed being part of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and himself flew ‘Ultralight’ airplanes (basically a hang glider with a very small engine), with landings on water, ground and even on snow and ice, with skis. He later built and flew his own experimental plane, and enjoyed the hobby of owning and buying them, along with the camaraderie of others who enjoyed the same interests. He also developed and published the book “Undercover Stings and Smuggling…” about the adventures of his good friend who was a U.S. Government Special Operative in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.
More recently, since his so called ‘retirement’, Bill had been reliving the joy that he used to get from his youthful days as a cab driver in Ann Arbor by staying busy driving for Cherry Capital Cab. It wasn’t even a job to him, he loved his coworkers and all of his riders. It duly suited his social nature and by no surprise, made many a friend. A heartfelt thanks goes out to all at CCC.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Kathleen (Keely) Merrill, and niece Wendy Merrill.
He is survived by his sons Scott (Heather) Keely, Steven (Kristel) Keely, wife Marilyn, stepdaughter Heatherbee Brown and stepson Joe Ellis. Grandson Logan (Scott and Heather) whom he took great pride in, and his nieces Vicki Merrill, Robin (Merrill) Payne, and Christina Merrill.
Cremation has taken place. A celebration of life will take place Saturday, Nov. 17, at 2p.m., with family greeting friends from 1p.m., at Life Story Funeral Home, 400 Hammond Rd. W. A luncheon reception will continue until 5p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Cherryland Humane Society, The Father Fred Foundation or the charity of your choice.
Please visit Bill’s personalized page at www.lifestorytc.com to sign the online guestbook, or to leave a memory, message, thought or photo(s).