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Keim, Friend and Caretaker to District Education Icon, Named Recipient of SHHS Alumni Spirit Award

Keim, Friend and Caretaker to District Education Icon, Named Recipient of SHHS Alumni Spirit Award
Posted on 07/17/2014
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Dennis Keim, South Houston Class of 1970, winner of the 2014 SHHS Alumni Spirit Award, presented by the South Houston High School Alumni Association.

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Dennis Keim doesn’t remember much about his days as a student library aide at South Houston High School more than four decades ago – except for the grace and Southern charm of the school’s head librarian, Margaret Rose Lodge.

Three years ago, hearing that Miss Lodge was still alive and in her late nineties, Keim decided to pay her a visit at her home in Arlington Heights, just two blocks from the school. A simple ring of the doorbell led into an unusual friendship – a bond between a teacher and her former student that carried Miss Lodge through the remaining days of her life.

Keim, a lifelong bachelor, committed himself to providing caretaker services for Miss Lodge, who died in late April at age 100. For almost three years, he prepared her meals, filled her prescriptions, drove her to doctor appointments and tended to her finances.

Eventually, he moved into her house on Princess Drive to provide full-time support. He bathed her and helped her dress. He was at her bedside when she died. At her funeral, he delivered a tearful eulogy.

In recognition of his devotion and sacrifices, Keim has been named the recipient of the 2014 David M. Ainsworth Alumni Spirit Award by the South Houston High School Alumni Association. A1970 South Houston graduate, Keim will be honored by the school and by fellow alumni, during homecoming ceremonies in October.  

He is the second recipient of the award, which is named after the first recipient, David Ainsworth, a 1968 South Houston grad. Ainsworth was a major contributor to Trojan alumni activities until succumbing to cancer last year.

Keim, a communications technology specialist, decided to try to reconnect with Miss Lodge after learning through a social media network that she still lived in the same house and was in reasonably good health.

Known for his sense of humor, Keim walked up to her front door, rang the bell and announced that he was making a delivery. “What kind of delivery?” said a voice on the other side of the door.

“A very special delivery,” Keim said. Miss Lodge opened the door, but didn’t respond when she saw him or even after he said his first name.

“Remember me?” he said. She didn’t.

Keim’s heart sank. Both names finally did the trick.

 “Oh, Dennis Keim!” she said as she threw her arms around him. “Of course, I remember you!”

It was Good Friday, 2011. Occasionally over the next three years, the date of their “reunion” would come up in conversation.

“Dennis, that wasn’t just a Good Friday,” she would say.

“That was a ‘very’ Good Friday.”

graveMiss Lodge served as South Houston’s head librarian from the school’s opening in 1957 until her retirement in 1978. At South Houston, she established the first National Honor Society chapter at any Pasadena ISD high school.

Last year, she was one of 20 former South Houston educators named as inaugural inductees for the school’s new Teacher Hall of Honor.

Keim was with her on the stage when her name was called and she was recognized by more than 300 friends, former students and former colleagues in the school auditorium, just across the hall from the original site of the library she established 56 years earlier.

Miss Lodge never married. She graduated from Rice Institute in 1935 and later earned a degree in library science from North Texas State. During World War II, she and her lifelong friend, Eloise Savell, worked in an aircraft plant in Fort Worth.

Miss Lodge and Miss Savell both served on South Houston’s first faculty, Miss Savell as a P.E. coach. The two shared the same house on Princess Drive until Miss Savell’s death in 2001.

Not long after Miss Lodge’s 100th birthday in December, her health began to deteriorate. Small favors soon turned into a caretaker’s task. Keim says he never considered moving her to a nursing home or an assisted living center. Instead, he moved his things into one of her spare bedrooms and tended to her needs.

The special moments, he says, will be his lasting reward.

One of his favorite stories involves Miss Lodge’s membership in the Gulf Coast Educators Federal Credit Union. When the credit union opened in 1948, she was one of the first to join. That fact became clear the first time Keim made a deposit on her behalf.

When asked for her account number, Keim replied, “280.”

The young lady on the other side of the counter paused, looked up and said, “What’s the rest of the number?”

“That’s it,” Keim said.

“Sir, it’s got to have more digits,” he was told.

To prove her point, she punched the three numbers into her computer. Miss Lodge’s account came up on the screen. The young lady’s jaw dropped. A supervisor even left her cubicle to confirm the account – and share in the amazement.

When Miss Lodge went into the hospital early this year-- and in the absence of immediately family -- Keim was faced with the kind of decisions he knew he would eventually have to make. Miss Lodge had given him power of attorney months before.

When, toward the end, a doctor recommended shutting down life support, Keim resisted. He sought out other opinions and decided to wait. A few days later, it was clear what he had to do.

Keim kept vigil at her bedside. He was there when she died on April 26 at Kindred Bay Area Hospital. The bond had lasted exactly three years and four days.

He made her funeral arrangements and enlisted cadets from the South Houston High NJROTC to serve as her pallbearers. After Keim delivered the eulogy, a vocalist sang a hymn that Keim had written several months before in honor of Miss Lodge.

In the weeks that followed, Keim began the task of sorting through Miss Lodge’s papers and belongings – a full century’s worth of material. He came across a poem she had written especially for him, a way to express her appreciation.

And he came across an old calendar she had used to make random notes. It was from 2011. One of the dates she had circled was April 22, labeled in print as “Good Friday.”

At some point, Miss Lodge had made a hand-written revision.

“A Very Good Friday,” it read.


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Keim and Miss Lodge at her 100th birthday party last December