WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Friends, family and admirers of Purdue legend Leroy Keyes gathered at the Mollenkopf Indoor Facility Saturday to celebrate his life and legacy.
A public viewing was available between 9 a.m. and noon, followed by a private ceremony that was streamed live on YouTube by the John Purdue Club. For three hours, Keyes was remembered by his family, friends and colleagues through a combination of songs, anecdotes and scriptures.
Keyes passed away on April 15 at the age of 74.
"I am so full of all the love that has been shown and expressed to my dad on this day," Keyes' daughter Jacqueline Sanders said during the service. "As we sat over there earlier, as the people came through just sharing their thoughts, their stories, their memories it just filled my heart with such joy. I couldn't be more proud of that man, and I am proud to stand here today as his daughter."
He was remembered for his time spent with family, at his church and on the golf course. Keyes was praised for his sincere positivity in all facets of his life.
Matt Folk, the President of the Purdue for Life Foundation, spoke during the service and explained numerous phone calls, letters and emails he's received over the past week about Keyes' passing. Whether the words were from fans, friends or fellow alumni, Folk said there were two constant themes when describing Keyes.
He always made others the center of attention, whether they dealt with him as a friend, an athlete, an activist, a coach or a university administrator. Folk also said it was amazing how many people met Keyes for the first time as he walked through the wrong fairway on the golf course looking for a lost ball.
"I'll obviously remember Leroy for all the things that made him a legend," Folk said. "I'll remember his big hands, his big bear hug, his big smile and laugh, and most importantly his big heart. He always left others better off than when he found them, and even if that was when he was in the wrong fairway looking for a lost ball."
Keyes was a legendary figure in Purdue sports as a two-time unanimous All-American for the football team in 1967 and 1968. After leaving the Boilermakers with a host of program records, he spent five years in the NFL.
More important than his time on the field was the time he spent with others as a coach and activist. Keyes worked as a desegregation specialist for Philadelphia schools for 16 years after his retirement, and he was also outspoken in improving the treatment of Black students on campus in the 1960s.
“Leroy was a true Boilermaker icon,” vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics Mike Bobinski said last week. “He will be missed not only as a legendary player, but even more so for the positive impact he had on so many over the course of his life.”
Stories Related to Leroy Keyes
- HONORING LEROY KEYES: Here's what several people had to say about Purdue legend Leroy Keyes, who passed away Thursday. CLICK HERE
- KEYES PASSES AT AGE 74: He was voted the All-Time Greatest Player in Purdue football history as part of the 100th anniversary of Purdue football in 1987. CLICK HERE