Councilors sign father's petition to honor Pfc. Andrew Keller

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jeff Keller spoke with Beaverton city leaders, asking for their support in renaming the Southridge High School stadium after his eldest son, Pfc. Andrew Keller. The 22-year-old Tigard soldier was killed in action Aug. 15 while leading his unit in Afghanistan. When Jeff Keller walked into the Beaverton City Council Chambers Tuesday night, he had 1,600 signatures in support of renaming the Southridge High School athletic stadium in honor of his eldest son, Andrew.

When he left the meeting, his list had grown to 1,606.

All five city councilors and Mayor Dennis Doyle readily signed Jeff Keller’s petition, which asks the Beaverton School Board to name the stadium after U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Keller, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 15. The board is considering either making an exception to or changing district policy that forbids school facilities from being named after individuals.

While the board must consider the implications of changing a policy that’s stood for 24 years, the Beaverton City Council had an easier time lending its collective voice toward honoring the beloved fallen soldier. Keller was named Most Valuable Player of the Southridge Skyhawks football team in 2007 during his senior year. The Tigard resident graduated from Southridge in 2008.

“This is the last place I thought I’d be eight weeks ago,” Jeff Keller told the council. “But something amazing has transpired, something that’s overwhelming to our family and community. Andrew’s death has brought us together in ways I could’ve never imagined.

“We’re here tonight,” he added, “to ask for your help and your consideration in this matter as we go forward.”

Doyle immediately agreed to support the elder Keller’s cause.

“I, for one, will try to pursue what you’ve asked us to do,” the mayor said. “And I don’t think anyone on the council would not take advantage of an opportunity to add to the case.”

Councilor Betty Bode, who asked Keller if she could sign the petition, said she believes public buildings and structures serve an educational, historical and sentimental function when they’re named for notable community members.

“I think we need to take advantage of bringing people and the community members, the taxpayers — however we identify ourselves — closer to government and closer to our municipal systems,” she said.”We have to move to a more personal connection ... Whatever it takes to move this forward.”

Immediately after the meeting, Councilor Ian King said he supports renaming the stadium, but is willing to let the School Board examine the policy and draw its own conclusions.

“I want to hear what the School Board perspective is on it. We need to let them work through their process and figure out the right way to get their ducks in a row,” he said.

Blair Jones, who joined Andrew’s father in addressing the council, said naming the stadium where Andrew Keller played would be a gesture that transcends policy matters.

“Andrew was a special kid, and I think that by naming the field after Andrew, it’s not necessarily in honor of Andrew, but in honor of our community,” said Jones, a Beaverton resident and the father of Marissa Jones, Andrew Keller’s fiance.

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