Thomas Eugene Keller, 87, the founder of Thomas E. Keller Trucking, passed away on December 28, 2020. Tom was born on December 20, 1933 at the tail end of the depression, which certainly influenced his life. Tom, the oldest of 8 children, was a hard worker who became a serial entrepreneur.
Tom spent his boyhood on the family farm in Vincennes, Indiana, milking cows and raising watermelons. He always saw ways to improve the family farm, including convincing his father to buy a truck so they could take the melons directly to market. Tom earned a basketball scholarship to St. Martin’s College in Washington State, and hitched hiked his way across the country to attend. Later, Tom volunteered for the Army during the Korean War and rose to the rank of Specialist Third Class. Tom continued playing basketball while in Germany, joining his division’s team in the army league as they traveled to play other teams across Europe.
After returning from the Army, Tom took up selling farm machinery for New Idea, which brought him to Ohio. Around this time, he bought his first truck, which he used to deliver farm machinery as a side business. In the mid-sixties, New Idea transferred Tom and his family to Defiance, where his trucking business grew. In 1978, he incorporated and soon quit selling farm machinery to concentrate full time on his trucking business. In 1986, Tom built the terminal and shop in order to move his business from Jackson Street to where Keller Trucking is today.
His many innovations in the trucking business include creating custom trailers, giving him a competitive edge and a unique solution for customers. His commitment to customer service and propensity for solving customer problems with unique, tailor-made solutions, propelled Keller Trucking to what it is today.
While Tom was a successful businessman, he was truly a humble person. His family adored him, as did many friends and employees. They will tell you that this man had a huge heart; he was thoughtful and kind; he always made people feel comfortable and welcome and was truly interested in what they had to say and how they were doing. Tom enjoyed reading the Wall Street Journal, watching sports and playing golf.
While Tom officially retired in 2007, he had a deal with his nephew Bryan, who took over the business: he would get an office, the Wall Street Journal and a computer. Tom continued to come into work every day because he enjoyed listening to the buzz of business and talking with employees. During 2020, like the rest of corporate America, he would sit and listen in on Zoom meetings all day long. Tom will be truly missed by many, but his spirit will live on through our memories. Tom left a legacy at Keller Trucking that will live on forever.
Tom is survived by his wife of 22 years, Karen, and children, Mark Keller, Tim (Connie) Parsons, Cheryl (Ron) Marckel, Doug (Cecelia) Parsons, Julie (Scott) Appelhans, and Kristi (Jerry Tonjes) Parsons, who Tom grew to love, respect and so enjoyed sharing family fun and adventures. His 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren put a twinkle in his eye that couldn’t be missed.
Tom is also survived by siblings: Marvin (Kay) Keller, Sullivan, IL; Gilbert (Rose) Keller, Peru, IN, Doris Rosander, Anthem, AZ; Jeanne (Jim) Kapper, Effingham, IL; Janice Hahn, Evansville, IN; and his brother-n-law, Norman Feldman, Vincennes, IN.
Tom was preceded in death by his first wife, Suzette (Castiaux); parents Eugene and Christine Keller; siblings Michael Keller and Mary Beth Feldman; and a son Anthony Parsons.
There will be a drive through visitation on Wednesday, December 30th from 3 PM to 6 PM at 850 Carpenter Road. Please drive in the building from Stadium Drive. A Funeral Mass will be said for Tom at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on December 31 at 11 AM. Schaffer Funeral Home in Defiance was honored to assist the family with arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to the following in Thomas E. Keller’s name:
Keller Assists Veterans in Crisis (KAVIC). Checks can be made payable to Operation K.A.V.I.C, and mailed to 24862 Elliott Road, Defiance, OH 43512, or to St. Mary's Catholic Church of Defiance, Ohio.
Online condolences can be sent to the family at www.Schafferfh.com.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Thomas E. Keller, please visit our floral store.