Ms Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 50, No. 10, December 2008, Page 574 Obituaries


Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley, former BCMJ managing editor, died unexpectedly on 11 October in Georgetown Hospital, Grand Cayman Island. For the past 10 years she and her husband Martin Keeley had made their home on the neighboring island of Cayman Brac.

Ms Upton-Keeley was born Claud­ette Diana Reed in Asheville, North Carolina, the first child of Haldee and Helen Reed. She was an outstanding student, a champion debater, National Merit Scholar, and president of Enka High School’s National Forensic League. In 1965 she enrolled at Duke University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1969.

Seeking adventure, Claudette moved in 1969 to Anchorage, Alaska, where she quickly became a leader in issues of women’s rights and reproductive rights. Later she worked with the Arctic Institute of North America, and spent several summers at the AINA research station in the heart of Kluane National Park in Yukon Territory. While the institute’s scientists studied the impact of arctic conditions on flora and fauna, Claudette administered the office during the winter months and cooked for the camp residents during the summer.

It was at Kluane that she met her first husband, Philip Upton, a senior pilot with the institute, considered “the finest mountain and glacier pilot in North America”; when Phil died in 1984, a Yukon peak was named Mount Upton in his honor.

After AINA headquarters moved to Calgary, Alberta, Claudette met Martin Keeley, whom she married in 1987, and they settled in Point Roberts, Washington, where she established her career as a freelance writer and editor. In 1993 she became managing editor of the BC Medical Journal, and remained in that position for 7 years. Her successor, Jay Draper, remembers Claudette as “a much-loved mentor to many, many editors. She was outgoing, friendly, and warm, but this easygoing personality coexisted with both keen intellect and superb judgment, making her one of the top editors in Canada. Her personality, her warmth, and her contribution to editing in Canada were all enormous—as is our sense of loss.” She was a founding member of West Coast Editorial Associates, and was named an honorary life member of the Editors’ Association of Canada, which she served as national vice-president.

Claudette’s passion for social justice and the environment kept her active wherever she lived. While in Point Roberts, she became a pivotal force in saving the local heron rookery. She was also involved in the sustained effort to save a landmark promontory from inappropriate development. Her work, and that of many others, was rewarded when Lily Point—valuable historically for its deep roots in Native American culture—was preserved forever as parkland. At a July 2008 gathering on the shores of Lily Point she took immense pleasure in celebrating this long-sought outcome.

While in Point Roberts Claudette also won a seat on the local water board, which she chaired for one term during a period that saw the community torn between pro-growth, slow-growth, and no-growth factions. Claudette’s intelligent, persuasive, and reasonable presence and her remarkable ability to bring disparate groups together and work toward outcomes earned her great respect and admiration. She had a rare gift for bridging philosophical differences, and her achievements as a conciliator will remain part of her enduring legacy.

In 1998 Claudette and Martin relocated to Cayman Brac, where she re­turned to the life of a freelance editor and immediately became immersed in the Brac community. She made her mark as a long-time director of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and as secretary of the Brac chapter of the National Trust of the Cayman Islands. She also served as editor of the official Cayman Islands history, Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and Their People. For her role in this monumental achievement and her support of Caymanian history and culture she received the National Heritage Award last year.

Although Claudette’s editorial business kept her in contact with clients in many countries, she especially enjoyed her work with Carib­bean authors and publishers. Her love for the English language knew no bounds, and she shared this love with her many friends and colleagues scattered around the world. She also loved the Brac—the bluff, the ocean, and the island’s creatures, great and small, including the many stray cats she and Martin adopted over the years. She gave of her time freely, and one of her greatest pleasures was working with school children on the Brac, whether this meant preparing a school newspaper, running a poetry club, or practising for a spelling bee.

In addition to her husband, Claudette is survived by two brothers, Ron Reed and his wife Manya Pungowiyi of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Andy Reed of Asheville, North Carolina, and four stepchildren from her first marriage.

—Andy Reed
Asheville, NC
—Martin Keeley
Cayman Brac

Andy Reed,, Martin Keeley,. Ms Claudette Reed Upton-Keeley. BCMJ, Vol. 50, No. 10, December, 2008, Page(s) 574 - Obituaries.

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