The mountains have called him home

As the winter of 2022 was nearing its end, Greg Keairns was making plans, as he did for so many years as winters came to a close. The mountains, in their quietness and in their serenity, were calling him once again. There would come that time as the new Spring was ebbing and the promise of another summer was on the cusp that he, his wife Judy and son Brandon would prepare for the day they would head south towards a cabin near Gatlinburg, answering once more the call to the Smoky Mountains. Even as his physical body continued its slow decline in the winter of 2022, he had thought, had hoped, that perhaps there would be one more time when he would find the peace and solace that eluded him in the clamor of everyday life in and around the Cincinnati area.

That one hope was not to be realized in the way he was planning. Greg died in the morning hours of June 6, 2022, at the age of 75. He was born the second of three sons to Paul and Josephine Keairns in Ironton, Ohio on March 30, 1947. That solace he found in nature came to him long before his trips to the mountains, as he grew up across the river from Ironton in Ashland, Kentucky. He attended one year of college. With not enough money to begin his second year, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving in Viet Nam, where he earned a Bronze Star. It was there that the seed would also be planted that would eventually lead to him being but one more casualty of war, as he succumbed to a variety of illnesses brought about by the effects of Agent Orange that was sprayed on combatants and civilians alike in Viet Nam.

That long ago war that ended for so many never ended for the young men like Greg who were part of it. There was always, his wife remembers, the nightmares and night terrors that would come in the dark. There had been the concern with his participation in that war when the two of them came to Cincinnati Friends, seeking something they had not found elsewhere in their spiritual journey, where there had been too many disappointments and not enough community. They had been encouraged to give the Meeting a try by CFM members Charlie and Suzanne Johnson. Charlie and Greg had been long-time best friends.

Greg worried in those first visits at Cincinnati Friends that, while he was finding a sense of comfort and belonging, he feared he would not be accepted within a Quaker community because of his service in a war, that he would not be welcome in a place so steeped in Quaker testimonies, including the peace testimony. That fear lived only in Greg’s mind. He and Judy were welcomed with open arms, with Greg becoming a member in 2018, serving as member of Trustees, and, for a time, as Clerk of Trustees.

Greg passed away just short of what would have been the celebration of 50 years of marriage to Judy. Together they came to call the Cincinnati area their home. Greg worked for a carpet and flooring distributor, CDC, rising to the status of vice-president in only one year. He was so good at his job that he decided to go into business for himself, starting his family business, Home-Based Carpet and Flooring, in the 1970s with Judy and then their son Brandon. He was so successful in his business that he won numerous trips from his vendors, with he and Judy enjoying time in Hawaii, St. Thomas, and Acapulco.

He is survived by his wife Judy and son Brandon, who are for now carrying on their family business. daughter Penelope (Lexington, Kentucky), who is also in the carpet business, and son Sean (Ironton, Ohio); grandson Vincent and granddaughter Victoria; and brother Kevin (Ashland, Kentucky), along with his CFM family and many friends.

He was a man of great charm, with a joyful and hearty sense of humor, and a deep relationship with the God who accepted and loved us all, even that little boy who had started out near the river in Ironton, Ohio, who had fought in the faraway Viet Nam and who found redemption, love and his spiritual home within the sanctuary at Cincinnati Friends.

He loved his memories of the river, including the seven years that he and Judy lived on a houseboat on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River before finally finding their home in Loveland, and of those Great Smoky Mountains. Those who love the mountains will know what he felt.

He had found in them, as he would come to find in the community of Cincinnati Friends, that safe and comforting place where he could be both challenged and embraced by the stillness, silence, and nearness of God. He suffered his decline with quiet dignity. He loved completely. He planned … he always planned … for that time between the ebbing of Spring and a new summer on the horizon … for that first glimpse of the Great Smoky Mountains. Those who love him always and miss him forever will think of him and his smiling face, his voice telling us he loved us, a man not afraid to say those words aloud.1 We can almost hear his voice reassuring us, “Do not grieve for me, for the mountains are calling and I must go.”

Print This Post Print This Post

1 Comment

  1. Ray Geers | | Reply

    I just read this article this morning. It uplifts my spirit because it so beautifully expresses my sense of Greg and of the “that of God,” or the love of God, that stretched – and still stretches, like a bridge, between his world and our community. Thank you for writing this Judy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.