By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Connie Keaton, a teacher whose love for marine life gave dozens of students the chance to explore the sea, died Saturday at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. She was 57.
She fought a nine-month battle with esophageal cancer.
Mrs. Keaton grew up on a farm outside Genoa, where she first encountered marine life in a nearby pond. “She grew up fishing,” her daughter, Shannon Hawk, said.
In the days before cable, Mrs. Keaton would watch Mutual of Omaha specials on Sunday nights to learn more about animals. “She wanted to learn about the earth, the dirt, how things grew and lived,” Mrs. Hawk said. “And if she decided she wanted to do something, it got done.”
She attended Lake High School, then Bowling Green State University. Upon graduation, she began teaching first and second grades at Union Elementary School, where she stayed for eight years before taking time off to be a mother.
She was dedicated to her children, Mrs. Hawk said, always finding time to be president of the local PTA, teach Sunday school, or be active in scouting.
“She was very much the leader in a group,” she said. “She was definitely not a follower. Anytime there was a need for someone to take charge, she was there.”
In 1985, she returned to work, this time at Jones Junior High School in Toledo, where she taught science to seventh and eighth-graders. She took time off to get her master’s degree from BGSU, then returned, eventually becoming head of the junior high’s science department.
The highlight of Mrs. Keaton’s curriculum was a biennial, six-day trip to Florida for about a dozen top students. For two years, she and students would raise money for the trip, which put students on a marine biology lab station. There, they’d learn to collect data, conduct experiments, and snorkel. It also allowed Mrs. Keaton a chance to swim with the sharks.
To encourage students eager to go on the trip, Mrs. Keaton set strict school attendance and citizenship requirements for the year before the trip.
She went on her last of the trips in May. When she returned, doctors told her about her cancer. She never returned to teaching.
Surviving are sons Ronald, Jeff, Stuart, Paul, and Andrew; daughters, Shannon Hawk and Elizabeth Konczal; mother, Violet Recker; sisters Suzanne Pavlica, Bonnie Scheuneman, and Betty McVicker; brothers Robert and Jon Recker; 10 grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.
The body will be at the Witzler-Shank Funeral Home, 222 East South Boundary St., Perrysburg, after 2 p.m. tomorrow, where services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The family requests tributes to the American Cancer Society.