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KEELEY, Robert L.A.

KEELEY, Robert L.A.

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Dr. Robert L.A. Keeley, born July 11, 1921, second child of Carroll Francis and Nellie Carter Keeley, passed from this life to his eternal home on Sunday, March 16, 2014. Affectionately known as "Pop" or "Papa Keeley", he is survived by his one and only loving wife of 65 years, Nina Braddock; 15 children and spouses: Betsy (Todd) Hobbie, Bob (Barbara), Mary (Bob) Flynn, Anne (Mike) Allison, Tom (Nelle), Pam (Mike) Cassell, John (Marlene), Kathy (Stuart) Sibley, Paula (Mickey) Cash, Daniel (Donna), David (Bonna), Mark (Meg), Chris (Mitzi), Richard, Nina (Joe) Sweeney; 31 grandchildren and spouses: Matthew (Elizabeth) Hobbie, Helen (Dave) Gould, Allie, Lizzie, and Meredith Keeley, Peter (Katie) Flynn, Brad (Meredith), Evan, and Carter Allison, Patrick (Rachel) and Elliot Keeley, Ben Cassell, Molly Sandel , Hannah Minnix , Clara Keeley, Matthew and Claire Sibley, Andrew and Maggie Cash, Brian Eads, Laura and Kate Keeley, Errett (Jennifer Hamm, Emily, Charlotte, and Graham Keeley, Courtney, Megan, and Christopher Keeley, Sarah and Sam Sweeney; 10 great-grandchildren: Penelope and Peter Hobbie, Max and Keeley Gould, Noah and Emerson Flynn, Cailey Allison; Brett, Jackyln, and Justin Hamm; nieces and nephew: Ceil Keeley Williams, Carol (John) Hart, and Cathy Keeley, Steve Keeley and a host of beloved extended family. Born and raised in Roanoke, Va., he attended Our Lady of Nazareth School, later known as Roanoke Catholic School. He graduated from high school at age 16 and went on to attend Roanoke College for 2 years, transferring to the University of Virginia. He proceeded to the University of Virginia Medical School, graduating in 1944. He did his internship at the U.S Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. During WWII, he served as a captain in the Navy from 1945-1946. On his return, he continued his education with a residency in general and thoracic surgery at Duke University. His time at Duke was a turning point in his life (and many others) as this is where he met his wife, Nina, the love of his life, who was working as a nurse at the time.

Shortly after meeting Nina they wed, and after their first 3 children, he was recalled to active duty with the 1st Marine Division in Korea. He was a M*A*S*H surgeon for one year and then returned to Durham to complete his surgical residency in 1955. After this (and two MORE children plus one on the way), he and Nina moved to Roanoke, where he started his private surgical practice (and they would have many more children).

After a few years of private practice, Dr. Keeley, Dr. Hugh Trout, Sr. and Dr. Bill Butler founded Jefferson Surgical Clinic. He remained an active partner of JSC until 2012. He continued to work as a disability determination physician at the Social Security Administration up until his death.

His numerous appointments included: Chief of Surgery as well as Chief of Staff at Roanoke Memorial and Community Hospitals and Clinical Professor of Surgery with the University of Virginia School of Medicine, where he trained numerous surgeons that continue to practice in the Roanoke Valley. He was president of the Virginia Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Foundation from 1978 until present. He helped found Bradley Free Clinic and was instrumental in creating Project Access of Roanoke Valley, providing medical services to the uninsured.

He was an Eagle Scout, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and actively participated in the Rotary Club. He was on the Board of Directors for the National Conference of Christians and Jews, First President of Catholic Family and Children's Services, and founder/chairman of Roanoke Area Drug Abuse Council. He was a staunch supporter of Catholic education and was actively involved in Roanoke Catholic School throughout his life. As a parishioner of Our Lady of Nazareth Catholic Church, he served as lector and Eucharistic minister in addition to numerous parish board appointments. He was on the board of the Advancement Foundation and the United Way.

Among many awards, he received the Medical Society of Virginia Community Service Award 1991, Medical Alumnus of Year-UVA 2001, Roanoke Academy of Medicine Lifetime Achievement Award 2004, and most recently he received the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice Award by Pope Benedict XVI 2012, the highest papal honor for a lay person for community service in the Catholic Church. In 2012,

Carilion honored him by establishing the Healing Arts Foundation, a program dedicated to art and music as part of the healing process.

A most cherished award was his Father of the Year Award in 1967. He was dedicated to his family most of all. He was passionate about his wife, family, faith, medicine, friends, service to his community and fishing. He especially enjoyed time with family and friends at Smith Mountain Lake and Wrightsville Beach, NC. He will be remembered for his tireless work ethic, dedication, wisdom, humor, compassion, generosity, fairness and respect for ALL.

The family will receive visitors from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, March 21, 2014 at Our Lady of Nazareth Catholic Church (OLN), 2505 Electric Rd. A celebration of life will be held Saturday, March 22, at 11 a.m. at OLN with the Rev. Msgr. Joseph Lehman officiating with a private graveside service.

Special thanks to the nurses and staff of 9 South, Dr. Robert C. Keeley, Dr. Phil Shiner, Dr. Kevin Dye, Dr. Jim Cain, Dr. William Whitney and Good Samaritan Hospice for all their loving care.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the following: Project Access of Roanoke Valley, the Carilion Healing Arts Foundation or Roanoke Catholic School.

Funeral services by Oakey's Downtown,


Obituaries Newsletter

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(20) entries

Cheryl A Clark

Papa Keeley was a wonderful man! I've only worked/known him for over 2 years but he has already made an impact on my life. I'd go home and even talk about Papa Keeley and how much I enjoyed working with him. We all have lost such a wonderful, caring and committed person. My condolences and prayers to all the family. God Bless.


Dr. Keeley saved my life when I was 9 years old and suffered a ruptured appendix. He was a wonderful, kind and compassionate man to whom I owe my very life. My sincerest condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.

Mary Hastings

Papa Keeley has been an influence on my life since I was born. Through church, Family, school, the hospital, a patient, and being friends with many of his children, I have seen him in many different roles and I can truely say he was a legend. I feel it was an honor to know him and learn from him. I will never forget his smile ! He will be missed. My deepest condolences to his wonderful wife and all of his family.

Tonya S Robertson

So sorry to hear of Papa Keeley's passing. I have worked for RMH and now Carilion for the last 26 years and he has always been a fixture there. Mornings on the units were never complete without Papa Keeley coming around to see how many discharges there were for the day. He was a breath of fresh air during a busy morning.
I Worked alongside Chris during his OB/Gyn residency. Hearing stories about his large family and their vacations at Wrightsville Beach were always entertaining. There is alot of love within the Keeley clan.
Prayers to all of you.... Chris, hugs especially to you, Mitzi and your children.

Beth Williams Martilik

The world has lost an amazing individual.


I will miss that contagious smile and the witty words from such a great friend and fine physician. I extend my heartfelt sympathy and prayers to the entire family-- especially to Dr. R.C.Keeley, Bonna, Pam and Marleen--those I share with in the workplace now or have in the past. We have certainly lost a gentle giant.


A most generous man that I was truly honored to have known and shared the friendship of some of his children.


I first met Dr. Keely in 1958 when I entered nursing school. Being a young naive female I felt the doctors were on a pedestal too high for me to even see. Dr. Keely helped me see that doctors are human just like me. He was always kind and down to earth. Though he had credentials held by no other he was a sincere true person with a Godly attitude. It would be totally incomprehensible to know the number of lives he touched.
My heartfelt sympathy to all his family. He will be sorely missed by many!!!!
Jo Ann D. Boone, R. N. (Retired)

Dr John L Clements

Dr. Keeley was one of the best !! He will be missed by the entire health care profession. His knowledge, wisdom, respect, care for the needy will be missed by all. I wish I could have spent more time with him. I had great respect him. GOD BLISS Dr. ROBERT L.A. KEELEY. Dr. John L Clements

Sheri Hedge Carroll

To Chris, Nina and all the Keeley family, very sorry for the loss of your father.
Jay and Sheri Carroll


My condolences to Dr. Keeley's family.

I had the pleasure of training under Dr. Keeley from 1986-1991. He was a fantastic teacher and a exemplary role model for physicians. He was a true general surgeon and a gentleman. He always got a charge out of guiding a junior resident through the biggest case he could. He frequently took me in his "chariot" (i.e. his VW Beetle) over to Community to do cases. The look of satisfaction on his face after guiding me through a pneumonectomy when I was a second year was priceless. He said that type of challenge was what he enjoyed.

I find myself quoting "Keeley-isms" frequently but the one that has always guided my practice was to "treat every patient like they were your family". I have strived to always live by that guidance.

He will be missed but he will live on through the many lives he saved and the surgical residents that he trained. Rest in Peace Dr. Keeley. You have earned it.

Todd A Meyerhoefer MD, Jackson Township Ohio


So many lives have been blessed by Dr. Keeley. He is a true inspiration and role model. His legacy will live on in the spirit of his family and of all those individuals whose lives he touched. My heartfelt condolences to the Keeley family. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Rest in peace, Dr. Keeley. The world is a better place because of you.

Chris and Mit, sending you big hugs.

~ Pauline Donato Lea


I had the pleasure of working with Papa Keeley on the Tuberculosis Foundation Board of VA for 20+ years. He was an inspiration and encouragement to so many people.

He had such a contagious smile and a sense of humor. I will miss him greatly and I'm so thankful for the opportunity I had to know this wonderful man. I extend my heartfelt sympathy to his wife and entire family. We are truly blessed to have known this dear gentleman. There will never be another Papa Keeley! Linda Whitaker


In the OR, we called him Obi Wan. "Give me a right angle so I can bang on the mayo" he would say. One of the smartest men I have ever known. I am so lucky to have known and worked with him.

Susan Birckhead

What a tremendous treasure Papa Keeley was to all who had the blessing to know him or any of his large ,loving family! What a legacy he left behind and now he stands before his Savior reaping the rewards of a life well lived in servanthood to many. His
work will live on though all the foundations he helped begin to help others ;and most certainly in the lives of his many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My heart is in sorrow for his beloved family for such a great loss, but praise God you WILL meet again. So glad to hear he was our "6th man" as the Hoos won the ACC championship and went on to the win the ACC tournament! God bless you all!

Mary Miller

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the Keeleys, especially to Mrs. Keeley, John, and Mark. I'll never forget the good times at Smith Mountain Lake, Wrightsville Beach, and football games . Dr. Keeley was such a generous and kind man!


I want to send my heartfelt condolences to all of the Keeley family. I had the pleasure of working with Papa Keeley at RMH and he truly was a gift to all that knew him. Papa Keeley thank you for the memories, may you rest in peace... Amy Melkus-Mcguire RN

Andy Cochrane

I was privileged to work with Dr. Keeley in our service line leadership roles at Carilion. He led with the values he demonstrated as a physician and as a man. He consistently challenged all of us to maintain a perspective of someting more than patient-centered care, but more important, human-centered care. The care and respect he demonstrated every day is something I have not forgotten and I am a better leader in my life becasue of it. Thank you Dr. Keeley for all you taught and all that you shared.
~ Andy Cochrane, Edina, MN


To the family,
I got to know Papa Keeley when I was employed at Community Hospital for 20+ years. I remember when I had my last child, he came into my room and said, what took so long. I said Papa she was stubborn. Papa was a wonderful person and thank God that I got a chance to known him. The family is in my Prayers.

Trey McCallie

There are so many fantastic memories our families have shared together over many years of knowing each other. We are so sad to hear of Bob's passing. He was so good to us always. My parents loved and respected him so much. His energy, enthusiasm and sense of humor are what I remember most.

My mom always laughed at his jokes in the OR.

I really enjoyed our fishing expedition at Wrightsville Beach; we caught lots of fish and narrowly avoided capsizing the boat.

His commitment to our community and his family is unmatched. Our love, thoughts and prayers to the family.

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