From the Editor: Heroes Keep Showing Up

Noelle, Amber, Ginnie and Frances Keister attend N.C. State’s commencement ceremony on May 14, 2021.

It was wonderful speaking with the folks selected as the Town of Cary’s Hometown Heroes. While I always enjoy chatting with people in our community, these conversations were notable because I had to convince a few of them to accept the award.

I’m no hero, they would say, merely doing what needed to be done. But perhaps heroism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

“Looking at the list of people, it’s great to see that ‘hero’ can be defined in so many different ways,” said Virginia Johnson, clerk for the Town of Cary.

Legna Aponte, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan in 2019, describes the heroic work of the U.S. Veteran Corps this way: “They keep showing up.”

Perhaps that is the best way to think of everyday heroes: They keep showing up.

For more than 25 years, my mother-in-law, Frances Keister, showed up for me. Sure, she spent the big days with us, birthdays and holidays, but there were also the piano recitals, choir performances, and countless other times she was simply there.

The morning my younger daughter was born, she hopped on the road in the wee hours to drive more than three hours from her home in Virginia Beach to Raleigh, so she could care for my older daughter, then 3. She stayed for a week, cleaning, cooking and caring for our little family.

When I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to the Ukraine for business, she made it possible for me to go. She stayed with my husband and toddlers for nearly two weeks, caring for them while I was away.

Her boundless energy was infectious. We would go to “Camp Nana” every summer, me and the girls when they were small, each granddaughter alone when they were older. We picked blueberries and made jam, shelled butter beans and dug sweet potatoes. The four of us would paddle in tide pools and build sandcastles on a quiet beach that she knew well. She taught my children to sew, took them shopping and let them eat Klondike Bars for lunch and dinner.

Although she was the salutatorian of her high school class, Frances never had the chance to attend college. But thanks to her generosity, both of her granddaughters were able to continue their education. One of her proudest moments was in May, seeing her granddaughter graduate cum laude from N.C. State University.

That day, we thought she had licked the cancer that had sidelined her for most of 2020. But within a few short months, the disease would be back with a vengeance.

My hero, Frances J. Keister, passed away Sept. 11, 2021. I will always be grateful for the gift of her presence.


  • Bill Brooks says:

    Multiple generations of good.

  • Debbie White Waters says:

    Thank you for sharing and writing that lovely article. Frances Keister was a hard worker who had a big smile and kind heart and loved her family dearly. I feel so blessed to have been part of growing up with the Keister family on Willowwood Drive and to have been able to share such fond memories with them. It was such a nice close family neighborhood and I will always cherish the beautiful memories that Mrs. Keister also bought to all of us.

    • Amber Keister says:

      Debbie: Thank you so much for your kind words. I know Kevin cherishes those memories too. Amber

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