Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Our Blog(z)


Dec 28

Written by: Greg Runyon
12/28/2009 8:51 AM 


It is with a great deal of sorrow that I have to acknowledge the passing of one of the founders of KZIA, Inc., Eliot Keller.  Eliot died early this morning after bravely battling A.L.S. for a number of months.


I’m relieved that his suffering at the hands of this dread disease, which he soldiered through with such dignity, has come to an end.  I am also saddened by this loss, almost beyond words, but words are my stock in trade, and Eliot seems like a particularly worthy subject on which to share a few.


I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with and for this man for the last four-and-a-half years.  I wish I’d had more time with him.  He had so much to offer, not just from a broadcasting perspective, but also just in his approach to life in general. 


Eliot was a firm believer in community, particularly this community.  He worked tirelessly for the betterment of Eastern Iowa, participating in countless groups, boards, committees, you name it.  He also believed in the necessity that his radio stations be focused on localism, attentive to the needs of the people in this area.  I remember when a tornado ripped through Iowa City a few years ago, we had a team of four or five reporters covering the aftermath.  Not too shabby for a play-the-hits radio station.  Oh, and true to form, Eliot was one of those who was on the scene filing reports.


Given the leadership abilities of Eliot and his business partner Rob Norton, it’s not surprising that we have a staff full of people who share their beliefs about what makes good radio.  Their mission we will carry on, and though we’ve lost Eliot’s direct counsel, we won’t ever be far away from the knowledge of how he would have wanted things done.


Eliot’s family has lost the most with his passing.  But those of us who work at his radio stations share this loss, the broadcasting industry as a whole shares this loss, and whether you knew him or not, if you live in this area, you share in this loss. 


Eliot was a good man, and I miss him already.



14 comment(s) so far...

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

well said Greg, Eliot was a caring, passionate and genuine person. There's no denying his ability to make people feel comfortable and welcome. We are better people for knowing him.May God hold him and bless his family.J.R.

By Jen Riley on   12/28/2009 9:21 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

I'm so sorry to hear the news. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and staff of KZIA and KGYM.

By Jeff Winfield on   12/28/2009 9:21 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

This is very sad. I didn't know Eliot well, just met him a couple of times, but he was certainly a CR radio fixture and I know he'll be greatly missed by his family and friends.

By Andrea Beck on   12/28/2009 9:50 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

In the past years, I've heard you speak of this man, that I could only walk away wishing that I had known. Without reservation, it is sad to hear of a local pioneer passing, not to mention a strong competitor, but with the foundation that he has left in place, there is no doubt that his tenacity will carry on. My deepest prayers are with you, Rob, and the entire KZIA family.

By JFL on   12/28/2009 9:51 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

Wonderful tribute!

By Cec on   12/28/2009 11:22 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

My KZIA tenure was all of four months, but Eliot made quite an impact before, during and after that time. I was a longtime customer before joining the sales team and always had the highest respect for Eliot, his dedication, creativity, belief in doing what you love - and enjoying it! Several years ago I sent him a note when I heard about his battle with ALS. I never expected a return note, but true to form, that's just what happened. Personally and professionally, a great mentor and inspiration.

By Jim Miller on   12/28/2009 12:59 PM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

I was truly shocked this morning when Scott told the listeners about Eliot's death. I first met Eliot several years ago through JA and then through many community actitvities/events. He was an incredible man/leader and tireless promoter of of the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor.

My heart and sympathies go out to his family, the radio family members and all of us in the community who have no idea how big a loss is for all.

May you rest in peace, Eliot.


By Diana Patten on   12/28/2009 12:59 PM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

Thanks for that Greg. You said what I couldn't.

By Chris J on   12/28/2009 1:44 PM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

I am very fortunate that I was able to work with him off and on throughout the years, and will miss his advice and knowledge. He is a great man whose legacy will live on.
My sympathies to both his family and colleagues.

By Harry Ehmsen III on   12/28/2009 3:24 PM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

Those of you who are reading and posting here are also invited to visit a tribute page that's now live on this site. Lots of fun pictures of Eliot, and a forum for comments as well. Click here:

By Greg Runyon on   12/28/2009 3:27 PM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered


Well said. I only worked with Eliot for 15 months and he never ceased to impress me. He had a way of giving you advice without you feeling like he was telling you what to do. He also cared more about local radio than anyone I have ever worked with.

I'll never forgot sitting in office once or twice a month until 6 or 7 at night talking about radio, trains, life, anything. He will be missed.

By Kevin Walker on   12/29/2009 8:37 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

Eliot was a classmate at Iowa when I was there. It would be hard to think of a more pleasant, genuinely sweet individual.

Eliot's radio dream began as a little office downtown called Communicators Incorporated. Eliot offered shares to secure a construction permit from the FCC, the first step before anything else could be done. Although i still had a loan due for my U bill, I put in for 100 shares. Nothing was guaranteed.

The 100 shares bought me an insider's seat for the turmoil that Eliot and Rob went through to get the first license, the first studio, the 100,000 watt frequency swap and other challenges.

I left the radio/TV business in 1980 for a sales job that would occasionally bring me through Iowa City. I always made time to see the newest equipment addition Eliot was proud of and to listen to him describe the "next big thing."

By the time Eliot and his partners made the move north, my 100 shares had become 400 and my wife and I had spotted property in the Missouri Ozarks that would become our retirement place. Eliot always said things had a way of working out for the best.

I will miss him.

By Eric Davis on   12/29/2009 12:54 PM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

What an honor I had. I got to work with Eliot and Rob. I was the first night jock at KRNA. Several of us had come out from Washington DC for an obscenely low amount of money (a fact that I wear with a badge of honor) to finish building, and fire-up, KRNA.

Although, we all knew Rob from Washington radio, we were all meeting "The Big Man" for the first time. Only... Eliot couldn't have been farther removed from that caricature. He was a combination of Groucho Marx, the president of the fraternity chapter, the most adult among us yet, the most childlike when it came to sheer wonderment! His name was Eliot Keller and immediately, he and Rob Norton created an indelible bond of friendship among us.

We were all working around the clock, sleeping in shifts, and, although he had a lovely wife and daughter at home, Eliot was right there with us, often in a green eyeshade that made him look like a cranky bank auditor. Then, in the midst of the chaos and urgency, Eliot would just come hang with one of us and talk about things; the station, our families, the collective vision for the station. He was a leader in every sense of the word. And, he proved to me, once and for all, that you CAN be friends with your employees... because, I can't think of Eliot as anything but a friend! And, I will carry the compliment of his friendship with me, forever.

By Ed "the Red" Rodriguez on   12/30/2009 8:48 AM

Re: Eliot Keller Remembered

There are THREE people in my life who still make me smile, even after they've passed: Craig Wakeham, Anthony Weller and now Eliot.

I was sad when I heard the news, but the past few days have been filled with, "Remember that time...?" moments that make me chuckle. And I don't see that changing when I think of Eliot in the future.

Combine that with all the lessons I learned as a young punk disc jockey when I worked for him, and I owe him a LOT. More than I can ever repay.

I can't wait until I can be there when somebody dedicates "The Eliot Keller Memorial _____", even if Eliot would have HATED the idea of ANYTHING being named after him. :)

By Tommy Lang on   12/30/2009 2:08 PM

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