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Celebration of Life: Paul Keggereis / The Membership Connection

Paul and Norma Keggereis

May 14, 2012 –  One of my favorite members at the Rockwall YMCA recently passed away.  Paul Keggereis was always friendly, funny, and loved to tease people.  I miss seeing him almost every day when I walk out into the lobby.  I am one of many, many people who miss him being here.

Paul and his wife Norma had been in Rockwall since 2002. They became members of the Rockwall YMCA in 2008 after a parent had been ill and passed away and they become more focused on their own health.

Norma describes Paul as always being an encourager – smiling and positive-minded.  He was a pilot who also loved cars and motorcycles.  Paul would push Norma past her comfort zone; he taught her to take chances and have adventures that as she describes them, “were still legal and not fattening.”

Norma says that the thing Paul most taught her was to seize the moment, to discover together, and do things that you may never have the chance to do again when an opportunity arises.  In 1985 he convinced her to take a 30 day motorcycle trip up to Canada and back.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and Norma was inspired to write two songs on the trip.

Paul left home at 17 and went into the service where he got his GED.  He went on to get multiple college degrees, including a Masters and PhD.  Paul joined the ministry at the age of 50, although he says he was called to it at age 25.

Norma says they always thought the YMCA was for kids and when she turned 65, she received a card from the AARP, letting her know that she was eligible for a free Silver Sneakers membership.  When they came to the YMCA, Norma enjoyed Group Exercise classes and Paul used the weight room.  Paul had previously had heart surgery, and needed to take extra care.  They both enjoyed swimming.  Norma says that they love the family atmosphere at the YMCA; they have lots of casual friends and after time made some very close friends.  They would always sit and have coffee together in the lobby after class and talk with their good friends John and Mai Harrison.

Paul got sick while they were recently on a mission trip to Mexico.  On February 22, Paul went into the hospital and both he and Norma were put into isolation because he had symptoms of tuberculosis.  It was discovered that Paul had lung cancer and he passed away on March 24.  At the time Paul went into the hospital, both Paul and Norma were volunteering for the YMCA Partners Campaign.  Norma did not have any symptoms, but was required to go into isolation along with Paul in case she had been exposed to tuberculosis.

She had 30-40 contacts that she wanted to get in touch with and got her YMCA book to the hospital so she could wrap up her calls to raise money for Partners.  People were so surprised when Norma continued to work on the campaign even while in the hospital and after Paul’s passing.

If there was a person that defined “committed”- it would be Norma.  It is because of the deep connection that she and Paul felt with the YMCA, the people that work here and our members, and the mission that we work for, that makes her so dedicated to the cause.

She said when Paul passed, she has never felt more supported by anyone more than the people at the YMCA.  People stepped up, watched the house for her, made meals, whatever she needed.  She said everyone would find out what it was she needed and they would do it.  It is that spirit connection, as she describes it, which bonded them to the YMCA.

Liz Jones is the Membership and Wellness Director at the Rockwall County YMCA.

Liz Jones is the Membership & Wellness Director at Rockwall Family YMCA, located at 1210 N Goliad in Rockwall, TX.  She is a writer, certified yoga instructor, and wellness coach.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Management, with a graduate certificate in Ethics and Leadership.  Her undergraduate studies included communication, business, writing, art, fitness, and dance. 

She is trained in Reiki, Guided Imagery, and various healing methods. She has also trained in Shotokan karate and other forms of martial arts and self-defense.  Her background includes non-profit management and working with various at-risk populations, women’s empowerment workshops, and mentoring programs.

Liz Jones can be reached at ejones@ymcadallas.org or 972-772-9622.