I am Edward Keith’s eldest grandchild. After reading your article, subsequent reactions on your Facebook page as well as a letter to the editor titled “My Favorite Ed Keith Story” written by a former city council member I feel compelled to write something regarding my feelings on this publicized matter.
After long conversations with my father, Richard Keith, my brother and my grandmother we all feel that there is a misinterpreted view of Edward Keith the person, as well as his intentions upon his passing.
First, I would like to address the letter to the editor submitted by Cindy Watter titled, “My Favorite Ed Keith Story.” Cindy, maybe I am being sensitive but your letter to the editor was very upsetting. I am amazed that on a public forum like the Napa Valley Register you felt it OK to label someone a “weirdo” and make jokes about a man (at the time in his 80s) being kidnapped. Your take on humor, recollecting a 20-year-old conversation by writing, “Thank goodness Councilmember Watter is on vacation, or she would try to have me fired for saving Ed Keith” is very hurtful.
I know you were just trying to be funny with what you wrote but your words hurt an entire family. Who knows what would have happened if, in fact, my grandfather was kidnapped that evening. I could go on, but I will just conclude with publicly endorsing name calling and kidnapping is never a good look.
This leads me into the root of all this discussion; the court case my family finds itself in regarding my late grandfather’s estate and the Edward A. Keith Foundation brought to light by your article. As you can imagine, our entire family, especially the grandchildren and our grandmother, are very distraught over this situation but what was lost in translation is that this is not a battle over inheritance by two sisters. This is an entire side of a family wanting answers about the execution of our grandfather’s trust and the setting up of the charitable Edward A. Keith Foundation.
What many people have overlooked is that our grandfather left the vast majority of his estate to a charitable foundation and an educational trust. I know that this doesn’t fit many people’s narratives of Edward Keith the landlord, but our grandfather was a very compassionate person. He deeply cared for people from all walks of life. He strongly believed in public education, helping those in need and did not discriminate. He loved the Bay Area and Napa Valley, and wanted to leave a lasting and positive imprint.
This is a man who spent every summer for 20-plus years (dating to the late ‘50s) running the Bar 49 Summer Camp in Chiles Valley of Napa County. The Bar 49 was nonsectarian and mixed children of all socioeconomic backgrounds together. He always spoke with a gleam in his eye about the scholarships he offered children from the inner city of San Francisco and Oakland.
Many of these children, even though they had grown up in the Bay Area, had never even seen the Golden Gate Bridge. He brought them up to Chiles Valley to learn about ranch life, offering them a new view of life outside the streets of the inner city. Horseback riding, boating, fishing, water sports, archery and arts and crafts are just a few of the activities offered.
At the Bar 49 Summer Camp, children from all social classes learned to live, work, and play together. Running the Bar 49 Summer Camp was truly a passion of his, and in his later years he actively wanted to start up again.
My grandfather was a loving human being, he was tough, but he also didn’t judge and was open to anyone and everyone. He set up the Edward A. Keith Foundation with the sole hope to help underprivileged youth regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation get a foothold on life and open new opportunities.
Ed Keith grew up in very poor conditions on the streets of San Francisco. He was a self-made man, so providing opportunities to those in need was of incredible importance. Prior to passing, he was active in local charities and was one of the donors to help construct the Boys and Girls Club of Napa Valley.
At the end of the day, I hope that people can realize that Edward Keith wanted to make this world a better place. He didn’t have to set up a foundation to benefit underprivileged youth, but he did. He wanted to leave a lasting and positive imprint on the Bay Area and Napa Valley; The Edward A. Keith Foundation was his chance to leave that lasting positive imprint.
What is being carried out in the court system is strictly an attempt to restore that foundation to its original core values of benefiting economically disadvantaged youth and children in need. As it stands now, most of the Edward Keith Foundation funds (which for some reason had its name changed) have been placed in a for-profit entity, a fundamentalist Christian Organization in Georgia that is a leading funder of the anti-LGBT movement (the antithesis of what he would have wanted) and a private Christian College in Montecito.
None of these represent the nonsectarian core values of Edward Keith, a man who wanted to see his foundation go to the success and protection of those at most risk.