Steve was born in Billings, Montana on February 21, 1947, the son of Billie Lou and Nolan Keil, and spent his younger years in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, California, and Nevada. With all this moving, Steve learned to make friends easily. Steve enrolled as a student at the University of California, Berkley and received his BS degree in Physics there in 1965. He received his PhD in Astrophysics from Boston University in 1975. While in Boston, Steve met his future wife, Alice. Steve and Alice were married in 1971 and celebrated their 52nd anniversary this past June. They had two children – a daughter, Pamela, who resides in Alice Springs, NT Australia; and a son, Wesley, of Arcadia, California.
Dr. Keil spent most of his career as a solar physicist working at Sacramento Peak Observatory in Sunspot, NM as head of the Air Force Research Group there, and later as Director of the National Solar Observatory (1999-2013). While there, he helped foster a professional environment and community atmosphere that attracted scientists from around the world. In 1999, as director, he guided the observatory’s transformation through a major new telescope project and transition to a new headquarters’ site in Boulder, CO. He shepherded the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope through the Decadal Survey Process, secured its full funding by the National Science Foundation, and saw the beginning of the telescope’s construction on Mt. Haleakala, Maui, HI in 2012. In spite of his busy work schedule, Steve always made time for his family. He was an attentive, devoted husband; an actively, loving father; a well-loved brother. To him, family was paramount.
He was an active outdoorsman who enjoyed hiking, back-packing, camping, and fly-fishing. He led the annual Dog Canyon Hike, a trek from Tularosa Basin up 4000 ft. to the Observatory, that challenged numerous scientists of all ages and their families. His volleyball games introduced a generation of REU students to his backhanded spike.
In 2014, Steve and Alice left their beloved home in Sunspot to move to their retirement home in beautiful Pagosa Springs, CO, which Steve had come to know and love through his fly-fishing vacations. They found many new friends in the community and a warm welcome. Steve became an avid dancer; and, as a couple, Steve and Alice joined local line-, square-, and round-dancing groups. Steve loved to hike and ski in the beautiful CO forests and mountains. He was a member of the Gray Wolves. A big, important part of Steve and Alice’s life in Pagosa was the Thingamigig Theater, where they enjoyed the wonderful performances, the events with Friends of the Theater, and volunteering as bartenders.
Steve is survived by his loving wife, Alice Orient Keil; his daughter, Pamela Lynn Keil (Michael LaFlamme); and son, Wesley Forester Keil (Youshi Li). He also leaves three brothers, Stanley, Stuart, and Ronald (JoEllen) Keil.
He is preceded in death by his father, Nolan F. Keil and mother, Billie Lou (Benjamin) Keil.
A Celebration of Life Potluck will be held on October 21, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. at the PLPOA Clubhouse, 230 Port Ave., Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
In lieu of flowers, you may donate to Thingamagig Theater, Pagosa Springs Medical Center, Trout Unlimited, or the Nature Conservancy, if you wish.