He saw me first as I rounded the corner.
Our eyes locked and his smile grew with each step I took toward his sterile hospital room perched high above Tacoma.
Bill Ketts shook my hand for the first and last time.
Bill thanked me for stopping by his room while I was en route to my vacation.
I told him that as a journalist, “this is what I do: I try to help people and unite communities.”
He told me that God sent me to his room for a reason –– and I agreed. He also told me that he could tell that I was smiling under my mask. I had donned a gown and mask to help prevent the passing of germs, as he was quite ill and battling for his life.
Bill, 56, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia back in April. We ran a KP News cover story about him in our June edition.
Our interview went well. Sometimes I feel like I may come across as a therapist, however, as I bring people back through their lives in detail and guide them gently into the present with my relentless questioning.
Bill rolled through the process with ease.
The love for his wife, Tracy, and children was obvious. He spoke highly of the community and parishioners of his church.
A couple weeks ago a colleague of mine posed a question to me that was asked to her by a KP News reader. She asked me, “Why do we put so many stories of sick people on the cover of the paper instead of happy people?”
Well, talking with Bill reaffirmed my beliefs as an editor and a person of faith.
It’s my job to tell stories that stir emotion, enlighten and engage people to act and understand.
If it’s a happy story or a sad story, or a story of hope, I’m going to run it because that’s what I (we) do. The Key Peninsula is made up of bright, caring people who go out of their way to help others. My goal -– with your help — is to chronicle people and events so we never forget.
I spent about an hour with Bill that day.
He looked me in the eye when he spoke. He listed intently as I spoke about my life and the recent passing of my mom. It was like I had known this man forever. We connected. Our goal of helping others was evident to both of us.
Unaware of his short time left on Earth, Bill was amazingly thankful and full of life. He was fearless, I got schooled.
He spoke about his private window view that framed Mount Rainier perfectly. I will think of him every time I see that giant snow cone. I wept as I left the hospital that day. I felt like I was leaving a brother, but was comforted in knowing he was in good hands.
Bill Ketts passed away on June 7.
I missed his memorial, but the community didn’t. It was standing room only at the WayPoint Church, the sanctuary packed with friends and loved ones.
For a community leader and a gentleman, Bill was one of the most humble individuals I have ever met. He credits everything to Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior.
I know it was only 60 minutes, but my time with Bill impacted me deeply. He taught me to follow my heart and the light. He said in doing so that everything else would be just right. And I believe him.
Community members wishing to support Tracy Ketts and her family can make donations at any Sound Credit Union branch to the Tracy Ketts account.