Chris was born on June 6, 1944 in Fairbanks, Alaska. One might wonder what brought a life to a start in the far reaches of the frozen wilderness. Both Russell and Alverra Keith were adventurous spirits and were attracted to life at Paxson lodge, a roadhouse in the remote Alaska. They followed the opportunities and excitement that it promised, Russell sought his fortune with the Alaska Road Commission. Alverra was a school teacher and found her calling in Alaska where school teachers were highly sought after. They acquired and ran the Paxson lodge and started their family, which ultimately included Don, Darrell, Christie, and Gordon.
Alverra was also a gracious and beautiful woman, a trait that most certainly runs true for all of the women in Chris's family. One might imagine that Chris learned her ways of inner and outer beauty, poise, and presence from a very early age by the influence of her mother, Shortly after Chris was born, the Keith family returned to the lower United States and settled in Bellingham, Washington where they lived until Chris was 12 years of age.
Many of you here are aware of Chris's love for country-westren music. We might consider that Chris herself invented the boot-scoot-in boogie,’ as her brother Darrell describes her distinct scoot across the floor. Darrell shared that Chris was simply too imaginative and courageous to settle for simple crawling as an infant, She would literally row herself across the floor, sitting with her back rigid and with her right leg extended. The left leg was her propulsion, bent at a 90-degree angle. As she moved along, a distinctive scritch-swoosh sound of her diaper could be heard, allowing Mom and Dad to easily track their adventurous offspring. Yes, from a very early age, Chris was determined and resourceful.
While living in Alaska, the Keith's would often spend their winter months visiting the family farm north of Seattle. Here the entire clan would gather to celebrate long holiday weekends. Happy childhood memories were made and shared with grandparents, cousins, and close family members. One might imagine that Chris's sincere love for animals may have started here. Certainly, there were plenty of pets in the Keith household as well while Chris grew up.
The Keiths were devoted to their faith in the Lutheran Church and were very active in their local parish while living in Washington, Chris was baptized in the church and at the appropriate age received her confirmation. Religion and the church community played a big role in Chris's life growing up. As a high school student, Chris was active in the Luther League, a church youth group, where she enjoyed many friends and fun activities.
The Keith's Ieft the Pacific Northwest and returned to Alaska when Chris was 12 years of age. She graduated from high school in Anchorage in 1962. Life in high school with Brother Gordon had its share of fun as well. Even though they were 18 months apart in age, friends often thought that Chris and her youngest brother Gordon were twins because he was so tall for his age.
Both Gordon and Darrell shared with me that Chris was always very happy during her childhood. She was light-hearted and witty, jovial and articulate. Darrell shared that Chris was a friendly girl with a happy heart and a contagious smile.
Chris left home in Alaska after high school to attend college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Chris specialized in secondary education with a major in English. It was at Pacific Lutheran where she met and married Roger Layman in 1964. Though their marriage ended, their friendship continued on as they partnered with each other in raising their beloved children, Toni and Scott.
Both Toni and Scott shared some precious memories of their Mom, times when they were young and some of the experiences that they had. Both Toni and Scott described Chris as a loving mother who was caring and kind.
It was in Toppenish, Washington that Chris met Jim. They were married in a double wedding with Jim’s brother Chuck on March 18, 1974 and began a life of adventure and travel together. They followed Jim’s career in Construction Supervision/Management of nuclear power plant and mining and metal projects all over the world. They lived in Washington State; Nevada; Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Southen California.
Their life together brought them to live in Veracruz, Mexico for nearly a year and then on to Bussan, Korea where they lived for three years. They shared the Korea experience with their delightful friends Hank and Eva Leonard, simply enjoying the local culture, food, and fun.
Jim’s career continued to take him around the world as he worked on projects in South Africa and Indonesia. It was in 1986 that Jim and Chris built a horse facility in Pennsylvania. Chris truly in her element there loved life among her many animal friends. Jim continued on his world travel during this time while Chris happily settled into life on the ranch.
Scott joined Chris and Jim and lived with them on the ranch after his graduation from high school. He had the opportunity to spend a lot of one-on- one time with his Mom, a time that he will always cherish. Scott shared memories of fond times with his Mom, enjoying their favorite country western songs, tending to the ranch, and caring for the animals.
In 1988, Chris and Jim came back out west and built another horse facility in Valley Center California while on a five year assignment at San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station and found that life was a dream living on the ranch.
Eventually, the two of them would opt for a simpler life and they finally settled in here in the beautiful hills of Escondido.
Chris began her 19 year career at the San Luis Rey Equine Hospital in Bonsall in 1990 Here she became known as the "Voice of San Luis Rey", greeting patients and staff with her warmth and grace. She known to be thoughtful and considerate when working with people and was a devoted member of the staff there. She was seen to be generous and kind to everyone that she came into contact with.
In her elegance and grace, Chris was a very private in her manner and maintained a warm friendship with those around her. No one realized the extent of her illness until the final weeks and days that she spent in the hospital. Even then, Chris maintained her poise and beauty. Surrounded by her many friends from the equine hospital, her beloved children, and Jim, Chris were deeply loved by all whose lives she touched. She met her darling great-granddaughter Maci for the first time when Chris was in the hospital bed and Maci came up to her and exclaimed, “Hi Grandma! I’m Maci I’m two.” Surrounded with love, Chris began her final rest on November 10, 2010.
Written by the family