A life filled with friends, family, traveling, and OU sports ended May 21, 2023 for John R. Key Sr. John was a loving husband, father, and friend. He was always willing to help and support those around him. If you asked John “How are you”, he always enthusiastically answered “I’m Great”.
John’s traveling days begin shortly after he was born to Bill and Madeline (Kimbrough) Key on January 3, 1949 in Texas. His parents followed construction projects which meant John attended 17 different schools. After school and during the summers he and his buddies would spend time playing baseball and John attracted the attention of a major league baseball scout, until they learned John was only 16.
The family moved to Libby, Montana and John helped build the Libby Dam. John loved living in the mountains, riding his motorcycle, hunting and fishing. He attended The University of Montana, but was too busy having fun to study much. He met Nickie, they married and had two children Johnny and Laura. For three months, during when Laura was born, John and his older brother Bill surveyed a pipeline route in Africa. John loved telling people stories about his time there.
When the time came for the children to start school, John decided to end his travels and settle down in Piedmont, Oklahoma. John spent many weekends taking Johnny to wrestling matches, or Laura to school band activities. He went to work at the Phillips Petroleum Field Office, later renamed Duke Energy Field Services.
After John and Nickie parted ways, Johnny’s friends introduced John to their mother, Esther Margaret. They were married April 24, 1987. He quickly became Dad to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Esther’s family had reunions from California to Florida and John really enjoyed visiting with the six sisters, their husbands, and children..
It was time for John to return to college as a serious student. At the end of each semester he received two letters. One from the Dean’s office for his excellent grades and the other advising that his college grade average was too low. He met his lifelong friend Bob Protus. John graduated from OSU – OKC with honors and an Associate Degree in IT.
John and Esther joined the Oklahoma Camera Club. At one of the meetings John entered a photo which got a good score and then he admitted it was a digital photo, not a correct film photo. He advised them the digital age was coming. What blasphemy!! Later he became president of the club several times, received service awards, and was the IT expert at the International Photo Competitions often organized by Doug and Jackie Finch.
He took early retirement, and his travel adventures were rekindled. His good friend Charles Taylor loved planning trips and John loved accompanying him and sometimes other friends: Wally, Doug, Randy, Bob and others. Charles and John went on a six week camping trip up the AlCan Highway across Canada and Alaska. They drove the Lewis and Clark trail, took multiple trips to Moab, some along the Left Coast, a cruise to Hawaii, and another trip to Alaska. Occasionally their wives were able to accompany them.
John’s friends, Wally and Jan Lee, moved to Ohio and invited their Oklahoma friends to join the Ohio Camera club on a trip to The Great Smoky Mountains. John so enjoyed the adventure he returned to The Great Smoky Mountains almost every year for over 20 years. He was able to travel in 38 of the 50 States.
He began working for the Photographic Society of America and became the Membership Coordinator. He organized the registration for their annual Photo Festivals held in various states. He loved working with photographers and although he insisted he only took snapshots, much of his work showed a fascination with, and deep love and understanding of nature.
John was an OU FAN. The University of Oklahoma and its athletic accomplishments were a source of great pleasure to him. He covered his office and other areas with memorabilia. If there are sports in the next life, John will be there.
He is preceded in death by his parents, stepson, David Ables and four step-grandsons; twins Wyatt and Dalton and twins Alex and Ben Wheeler.
He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Esther M Key, his son Johnny Key and wife Kristy, his daughter Laura Brewington and husband Jason, his stepdaughter Leah Benjamin, stepsons Phillip Ables and Stephan Ables, his brothers Bill Key and wife Phoebe, David Key and wife Ann, and his sister Mary Lou Foster. He is also survived by his grandchildren Nick, John III, Aaron, Ethan, Tulsa, Austin, Sage, Aspin, Ariel, Gunter, Jeremiah, Mehgan, and 14 great-grandchildren. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.
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