OBITUARY: Keithlin ‘Keith’ Durkee

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An Epitome of Bravery, Dedication, and Love. Keithlin “Keith” Durkee, a decorated Vietnam War hero and esteemed member of the Tennessee Military Collectors Association, passed away on September 25, 2023.

Born in Chattanooga, Keith’s life was a story of unwavering commitment to his family, country, and community.

From the lanes of Chattanooga to the dense forests of Vietnam, Keith’s journey was an embodiment of resilience and courage. A 1965 graduate of Chattanooga High, his life took a decisive turn when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966. His exceptional bravery during his service in Vietnam earned him twenty-eight commendations. The most significant medals include a Silver Star for Gallantry in action awarded April 29, 1968, The Bronze Star with V device for heroism awarded July 15, 1968 (6 total bronze stars), The Army Commendation Medal with V device for heroism awarded July 16, 1968, The Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action, awarded November 24, 1968 (2 total).

While his military accolades speak volumes of his valor, it was his human side that resonated most with those who knew him. Recounting his time in Vietnam, Keith often emphasized the weight of seeing men under his command perish, highlighting his compassion and leadership. The horrors of war, rather than hardening him, made Keith introspective and motivated him to make a positive impact in life.

After serving in Vietnam, Keith relocated to Murfreesboro in 1975 where he earned his master’s in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University. Keith became a pillar of the community. His passion for history and military artifacts led him to become an avid gun collector, joining the ranks of the Tennessee Military Collectors Association, which was recognized by the Tennessee Senate for their service.

His home in Murfreesboro was a beacon of warmth with a wicked sense of humor. Known for his friendliness, Keith’s presence was a staple in the neighborhood. His daily routine of waving to passersby and feeding the squirrels became an endearing local ritual. No one was a stranger to Keith, and every individual, whether they had known him for decades or merely minutes, felt his genuine warmth.

Behind the doors of the Durkee household, Keith was a devoted family man. Married for 46 cherished years to Donna Sue Durkee, their bond was an embodiment of everlasting love. Despite his playful jokes about his grandchildren being annoyances, anyone close to Keith knew the depth of his adoration for them.

In addition to Donna, Keith’s legacy lives on through his beloved sister, Sabra-nn (Sabie) York Holley, and stepsons, Rick and Randy Allen and six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his mother Ruth Gentry Durkee York, stepfather Orville York, Jr., father Thorton Durkee and brothers Paul and Gary Durkee.

The community, family, and friends will come together to remember Keith’s legacy with a visitation on Sunday, October 1, 2023, from 2:00 until 4:00 pm at Woodfin Chapel, Smyrna. Burial with military honors will be at 1:00 pm Monday at Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. https://www.woodfinchapel.com

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS. https://support.dav.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.personalCampaign&participantID=16329.

Keith’s life was a testament to the power of resilience, compassion, and commitment. Whether on the battlefield, within the community, or amongst family, his influence was profound. Today, as we remember Keith, we don’t just recall the medals and honors but also the heart that beat beneath them—a heart that was fiercely loyal, infinitely kind, and eternally courageous. Rest in peace, Keith. You have left a legacy that will continue to inspire generations.

 

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