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Memorial planned for Fred A. Keller

Fred A. Keller was there at the beginning.

Almost always.

And that is why he is one of a couple of handfuls of people who profoundly changed the quality of cultural life for the better in Western New York.

Most importantly, Keller was the man whose Circle Art and Glen Art theaters gave Buffalo its crucial 1960s education in the art of film from Europe, Asia and South America. It was not only where we first saw films by Michelangelo Antonioni, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Satyajit Ray, Luchino Visconti, Luis Bunuel and Akira Kurosawa, it was where we first saw – on a major movie screen – the great American film classics we formerly had to see on the late movie on TV screens mere inches across – movies like Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep” and “Bringing Up Baby,” John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Asphalt Jungle” and Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole.” It was a revelation to see how very beautiful they looked on Keller’s theater screens, as opposed to the small screens in our living rooms and bedrooms.

Beyond that, though, Keller was quite literally one of those who first put Buffalo television on the air. He was the first program director of Channel 4 – WBEN TV – when the great-grandfather station first went on the air as the television brother of the then-Buffalo Evening News.

As if that weren’t enough, he was a tireless proponent of live theater in Buffalo as a director, teacher and performer wherever there were those who could listen to Keller talk about subjects he loved as few others did.

It is by no means an exaggeration to call Keller one of the founding fathers of modern visual and theatrical culture in Western New York.

His death in California in October 2011 at the age of 92 has waited a long time for a suitable Buffalo memorial.

It will finally take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday in the Regis Room of Canisius College’s Student Center. There will be wine and cheese and soft drinks and film clips.

His son, filmmaker and TV director Frederick K. Keller, will be there to lead discussion of one of the truly remarkable figures in our city’s history.

All that will be missing will be Fred Keller, but in the cultural life of this city for more than the past half century there really hasn’t been a time when his legacy has been missing.

On Saturday afternoon, it will all have a proper name attached to it.