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Keith O. Walters, 78, passed away peacefully Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics after a long and complicated health journey.
Keith was born August 10, 1939 in Benton, Iowa to Hugh and Louise (Woollums) Walters. He graduated from Benton High School and attended business school in Omaha, Nebraska.
He married Jean Rusk on December 28, 1958 in Mount Ayr, Iowa. Together they had four children and spent the rest of their lives focused on their family. Keith worked for the co-ops in Mount Pleasant and New London before moving to Wayland to farm. He eventually took a position as elementary custodian and then grounds keeper for Waco Community Schools. This proved to be his favorite job. He enjoyed the work because of the people, especially the children. He retired in 1992 due to health issues.
Keith always enjoyed camping, sports, creative projects like decorating for Christmas and planning fun parties. He was a member of Wayland Mennonite Church and had served as a deacon.
Keith became our own ‘bionic man’ in 1995 when he got a heart transplant, and then later had his aortic valve replaced and then 10 years ago received a kidney transplant in 2008. These medical miracles gave us 26 years with a husband, dad, grandpa, great grandpa, uncle and friend that seemed not possible when he first became sick in 1992.
In those 26 years, his immediate family grew from 10 to include 31! He has welcomed seven more grandchildren, celebrated the weddings of five of his grandchildren, and has met and loved nine great-grandchildren. Of course, all of the grandchildren think they are Grandpa’s favorite! He also grieved the loss of his mother, siblings, friends and two of his children, Kelly and Kevin. Each year included baseball games, NCAA brackets, holidays and celebrations that just would not have been the same without Keith’s enthusiasm for having all his loved ones together. We’re so grateful for the gift of all this time and we know all these years with Keith would not have been possible were it not for several key factors.
First, and foremost, he received transplanted organs because families chose to be generous in the face of their own loss and grief. We do not know these families, but we are forever grateful. Keith chose to donate his body for medical research. This is his final act of gratitude and contribution to support organ donation.
Of course, the expertise of so many doctors and the skilled care provided by nurses and support staff performed miraculous medical feats. Care and love extended by these highly professional and deeply caring people carried him, and his family, through all these years – even to death. Their work is so much more than a job or career, more than a paycheck, more than a service … thank you for giving yourselves to such difficult and important work.
Finally, and most important, the unwavering love of his wife. Jean dreamed with Keith for their life. They worked together on many ventures and she helped with all his creative projects. They raised their family together, but Keith always gave Jean the credit for raising their children. Throughout all these years of health challenges, Jean has been his rock and the one he always wanted by his side. And she was always there with loving support.
Keith embraced the mantra: Faith, Family, Friends. Faith in God, who made his heart new – both physically and spiritually, carried Keith thru the years and even to death with the hope of heaven. Family was everything to Keith. And, his friends became as family to him.
Keith was proceeded in death by his parents, siblings, and two children, Kelly in 2013 and Kevin in 2015. Kelly died on Keith’s birthday and Keith died on Kevin’s birthday. Left to honor his memory are: his wife of 59 years, Jean Walters; daughter and son-in-law, Kristy and Wayne Heffner of North Liberty and their family: Kaleb (Alex) Heffner and Maddox; Karis (Chris) Cains; and Kirah (JJ) Johnson and Alex, Cody and Eliza; son and daughter-in-law, Kody and Lauri Walters of Tiffin and their sons, Keegan and Killian; son-in-law Todd Liddell and his family: Ryan (Hannah) Liddell and Josiah, Bo and Zeke; Colin (Rachel) Liddell and Caemon and Violet; Dalen Liddell; and Rolan Liddell; sister-in-law, Thelma Rusk and many nieces, nephews and treasured cousins.
A Celebration of Keith’s Life will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday at the Wayland Mennonite Church. Reverend Wayne Heffner and Reverend Kelly Slagel will officiate. The family will receive friends following the service at the church.

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