Back before Stephen and Argyle joined forces for school and athletic purposes, it was Stephen vs. Argyle. Or what I would call the good old days since I grew up in Stephen. And it didn’t take long to cultivate a healthy rivalry between the two towns and schools. It was the high school version of UND and NDSU. Back then it was pretty much the end of the world if we didn’t beat the Argyle Eagles in football or basketball. And truth be told, Argyle got the better of us more often than not. But the battles were so epic that you always felt you were part of something really big, and when I look back years later, the wins and losses are trivial.
What really mattered to me was that through it all, I had the opportunity to get to know Warren Keller. And his family. Warren was the long time Argyle coach and was on the opposing bench or sideline for everyone of those match-ups with the Eagles during high school.
Warren died Tuesday morning at the age of 70.
Even as a simple minded 17 year old, I had immense respect for Coach Keller. We all did in Stephen. I’m not sure I can pay a better compliment than that. These two towns located eight and half miles apart on Highway 75 fought tooth and nail for years.
And then a strange thing happened. After high school I attended Moorhead State University. I befriended a gangly and fun-loving freshman by the name of John Keller. He was Warren’s oldest child and it turned out that he was a pretty good guy. So good that we eventually became roommates. Shortly after that, I officially met Warren and soon realized why John was “a pretty good guy.” Warren wouldn’t have it any other way. He and his wife Sharon raised a family of salt of the earth kids.
When I think of Warren Keller now, I don’t think about high school sports. I think about when I received my promotion six months ago. In the days following the announcement I received just over 200 e-mails, phone calls and text messages from well-wishers. And exactly one hand-written letter. Of them all, it was my favorite. One full page, top to bottom, telling me how excited he was for me. And as I look at the letter, I see the words and feel the sincerity. From a man that I grew to have tremendous respect for, Warren Keller.