August 29, 1923 - October 21, 2014
Lasca Taft Smith Keele, age 91, passed away peacefully on October 21, 2014 at the home of a son in Orem, Utah. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, October 25 at the Orem Sunset Heights Fourth Ward Chapel at 500 South 600 West, Orem, Utah 84058. Viewing will be at 1 pm, funeral at 2 pm. There will also be a grave-side service at the Bicknell City Cemetery, Bicknell, Utah, on Monday October 27, at 1 pm. Lasca was born on August 29th, 1923 in Santaquin, Utah, the third child of William Clifford Smith and Olive Ethel Taft Smith. She was born on the second birthday of her twin siblings, Afton Taft Smith and Geneve Smith Cornell. Subsequently following Lasca into the Smith home were a sister, Audra Taft Smith Hendrickson; a brother, Leo Clifford Smith; a sister (who died in infancy), Nadine Smith; a sister, Anna Lou Smith Hutchings Robertson; a brother, Jaye Brigham Smith; and a sister, Diane Smith Cales. Her parents, as well as siblings Afton, Geneve, and Nadine, preceded her in death. Lasca received her beautiful and somewhat unusual name from a poem by a British [!] cowboy poet named Frank Desprez, which was first published in “The London Society: A Magazine of Light and Amusing Literature” in November 1882. This lengthy ballad about Texas cattle drives begins: “I want free life and I want fresh air; And I sigh for the canter after the cattle, The crack of the whips like shots in a battle, The medley of horns and hoofs and heads That wars and wrangles and scatters and spreads; The green beneath and the blue above, And dash and danger, and life and love — And Lasca!” The ballad about this Texas cowboy and his beautiful and fiery Mexican horsewoman Lasca ends with a stampede of cattle: “Then came thunder in my ears, As over us surged the sea of steers, Blows that beat blood into my eyes, And when I could rise — Lasca was dead! I gouged out a grave a few feet deep, And there in Earth’s arms I laid her to sleep; And there she is lying, and no one knows; And the summer shines and the winter snows; For many a day the flowers have spread A pall of petals over her head; And the little gray hawk hangs aloft in the air, And the sly coyote trots here and there, And the black snake glides and glitters and slides Into a rift in a cottonwood tree...” It has been speculated that it may partly have been because of this poem that young Lasca saw herself and her life as that of the dashing heroine of a romantic ballad, not just as some little girl growing up on a small farm during the Great Depression. Certainly she showed at a very early age a certain flair and verve for life. She was a very bright student whose hand shot up after every classroom question. Later, when she herself became a teacher of literature, it was clear that her love of poetry had deep roots. And her favorite mare, Pigeon, (or the old work horse Tony) “cantering after the cattle” on the farm in Santaquin, may have been to her a “mouse-grey mustang” close by her hero’s side. (Certain is that on her tombstone she caused this line from the ballad to be engraved: “And there in Earth’s arms I laid her to sleep.”) After graduation from Payson High School, she met Frank Alonzo Keele of Provo, and they were married on July 7, 1941, five months to the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly after their first child, Alan Frank Keele, was born on November 17, 1942, Frank was inducted into the US Army and sent to the China-Burma-India theater of war, where he worked in Northern India with trucks hauling aviation fuel into the Himalayas for use by the famous Flying Tiger P-40 Warhawk fighter planes operating with volunteer American pilots out of bases in China. While her husband was away, young Lasca devoted herself full-time to the education of baby Alan, wearing out the wooden wheels of war-time strollers pushing him around Provo, tirelessly teaching him the names of everything they saw. In the evening they read all his books together, over and over, until he knew them by heart. (No one was surprised when he could read newspapers at age three.) In time, Lasca took Alan to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where her sister Geneve lived with her family. While Geneve watched Alan, Lasca worked full night shifts at Warren Air Force Base, installing radio equipment in new B-17 bombers. When Frank returned safely from the war, he and Lasca took advantage of the GI Bill of Rights. They moved from Provo briefly to Springville, then to Laramie, Wyoming, where Geneve had also recently moved with her young family. Frank studied music at the University of Wyoming and eventually became the music teacher at Wayne High School in Bicknell, Utah, the town where both his father and Lasca’s mother had been born. In Laramie, Randall Clifford Keele joined the family on September 1, 1949. He was born premature, and at two pounds, ten ounces, was one of the smallest babies to survive in that era. Chris Patten Keele followed on November 29, 1950, also in Laramie, Wyoming. Frank taught at Wayne High for a few years before he finally returned to Laramie to finish his degree. While the family was in Utah during this time, Paula Taft Keele Christensen was born, on May 17, 1954, in Payson. Due to the keenness and persistence of her maternal Grandmother Olive Ethel Taft Smith, who sensed there was something wrong with the baby, Paula was successfully treated for Rh-negative Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn. Back in Laramie, Lasca gave birth to Mary Kay Keele on January 13, 1958. At about this same time, due to the great influence of good Latter-day Saint friends, the family became reactivated in their Church and were sealed together in the Salt Lake Temple on April 7, 1958. Shortly thereafter, Frank received his BA in Music from the University of Wyoming and he and Lasca and their family returned to Utah for good. On March 20, 1962, Annette Geneve Keele was born in Payson. Annette was also adversely affected by the Rh-negative disease, and treated, but with less than complete success. With Frank teaching music at Wayne High, by 1963, Lasca decided it was time for her to go to college and get a degree. The family moved to Salt Lake City and Lasca studied English at the University of Utah. When she completed her Bachelor’s Degree in 1969, the Keeles returned to Wayne County where they both taught at Wayne High School and worked on their 300-acre ranch, which Frank and Lasca had purchased as a hobby, along with raising race-horses. Lasca also made several study trips to Europe. Lasca is famous for having introduced a love of Shakespeare and other English-language writers to her beloved students in Wayne County. She also tirelessly worked to promote beautification projects in all the communities in Wayne County. She was very actively engaged in voter registration initiatives in her community, and she authored a revised edition of the book Rainbow Views, A History of Wayne County. Lasca’s mother’s family was from Wayne County (and Frank’s father, Frank Keele Sr. had been born there before moving away as a young man). Lasca was very proud that her ancestors included a great-grandfather, Apostle Amasa Mason Lyman, who had been a member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church under Joseph Smith. Amasa’s wife, Louise Maria Tanner, Lasca’s great-grandmother, was the daughter of John Tanner and Lydia Stewart. John Tanner has been described as “the chief financial backer of the Kirtland Temple.” His Wikipedia article states: “In late 1834, Tanner sold his property in and around Lake George, New York which included a hotel. He then moved to Kirtland, Ohio where in early 1835 he lent money and assumed loans to keep the building of the Kirtland Temple moving forward. When the prophet Joseph Smith tried to repay him he refused any payment saying they owed him nothing.” Joseph reportedly blessed him by saying: “None of your descendants will ever lack for bread.” Another of Lasca’s great-grandfathers, Seth Taft, had been the captain of one of the first emigrant trains to enter Salt Lake Valley in 1847. It was reported: “Seth Taft came into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake with Orson Pratt’s advance company and was a member of the committee appointed to select a place for the planting of potatoes, corn and beans. About 11:30 on the morning of July 22nd 1847 he, with others, reported that they found a piece of firm, fertile soil 40 rods by 20 rods for potatoes, and a suitable place for beans, corn and buckwheat, which they had staked off. Two hours later plowing commenced a short distance northeast of the camp.” (cf. findadgrave.com) Seth Taft’s wife was Eliza Jane Dykes, the daughter of George Parker Dykes, the only Latter-day Saint to captain a company of the Mormon Battalion. He had previously served a mission to Norwegian immigrants in Illinois. He was later a missionary in England and then one of the first four missionaries to enter Scandinavia in 1850. In 1852 he worked in Hamburg with Apostle John Taylor to have the Book of Mormon translated into German. Seth Taft Jr., Lasca’s grandfather, represented Wayne County in the Utah State Legislature. In 1907, at age 46, he was killed in a tragic accident at Bingham Canyon when a train carrying members of the Legislature on a visit to the mine was struck by a runaway car. Upon their retirement, Lasca, Frank, and Annette had to move away from Wayne County (the altitude was too high for Frank, who began to suffer from oxygen deprivation) and they moved to St. George, where Lasca worked as an advocate for Spanish-speaking immigrants in Washington County. Lasca also taught English as a Second Language at Dixie College for a number of years. In 2004 Lasca, Frank, and Annette left St. George for Lehi. Since the family had lived in Southern Utah during the atomic tests which took place at the Nevada test site in the 1950's and 1960's, Frank and Lasca and their family are official “downwinders,” susceptible to various cancers due to nuclear fallout. After Frank’s death in 2007 of precisely that type of cancer, Lasca and Annette moved in with Paula and her family in nearby Highland where they received great care for four years. Paula and Lasca both contracted breast cancer at about this same time and underwent operations and other procedures. Paula is still battling metastatic breast cancer. When Paula’s cancer recurred in July, 2014, Lasca and Annette moved to Orem to live with Alan and Linda Keele. Lasca’s memory had begun to fail and her body had begun to become very frail. Her remarkable hospice team at Horizon Home Health, under the leadership of Nurse Kathy Romney, (doctors, social workers, chaplains, massage therapists, volunteers, aides, and nurses) very ably and lovingly provided care, advice, medications, moral support, and medical devices which helped make Lasca’s last months comfortable and dignified. It is a great blessing that Lasca was able to pass away without having to suffer discomfort or anxiety. Lasca is survived by her six children: Alan (Linda Kay Sellers) of Orem (6 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren); Randall (Susan Healey) of Bountiful (2 grandchildren); Chris (Ila Jean Rosquist) of St. George (5 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren); Paula (Scott Christensen) of Highland (4 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren); Mary Kay (John Thornton) of Marion (2 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren); Annette, of Orem.
Lasca Taft Smith Keele, age 91, passed away peacefully on October 21, 2014 at the home of a son in Orem, Utah. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, October 25 at the Orem Sunset Heights Fourth Ward Chapel at 500 South 600 West, Orem,... View Obituary & Service Information
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