April 15, 1937 – Sept. 13, 2018
Rev. Ronald R. Keaton was as equally at home with students in a classroom as he was with parishioners at Sunday services.
During his many years as pastor of Broad Street Baptist Church in the City of Tonawanda, he also filled in as a substitute teacher at North Tonawanda High School and the former Reszel Junior High School in North Tonawanda, sometimes for extended periods.
He died Sept. 13 in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga, following a three-year battle with cancer. He was 81.
Born in Slagle, W.Va., he was the son of a coal miner and the oldest of three children.
After graduating from high school in Logan, W.Va., he went on to attend Marshall University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and history and a master’s degree in history.
While in college, he wrote daily to Karen Hager, whom he knew from church in his hometown. They were married Sept. 15, 1961.
He returned to Logan High School as a teacher, then taught in Chapmanville, W.Va., before leaving to attend Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa., where he completed a master’s degree in theology and was an Honors Crozer Scholar.
“What he loved about Crozer,” his daughter, Rebekah, said, “was that it was the same seminary Martin Luther King Jr. went to. This was in the 1960s. He thought that people really needed to stand up for what was right. But he was not one to march. For him, the focus was on preaching.”
He served as campus minister at Marshall University and the University of Delaware.
“Originally he thought he would rather work as a campus minister or be a hospital chaplain,” his daughter said, “but he had a desire to minister to a congregation and all their needs. Children absolutely loved him. They would crawl up onto his lap.”
Rev. Keaton became pastor of Wissahickon Baptist Church in Philadelphia in 1966 and three years later came to Broad Street Baptist Church in Tonawanda. He served there until 1997, then became pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in North Tonawanda.
He served as Protestant chaplain at Kenmore Mercy Hospital on behalf of the Western New York Council of Churches and was active in the Twin City Ministerial Group, serving as its treasurer for many years.
He also served on the boards of trustees of Crozer Theological Seminary and Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall Crozer Seminary.
After he retired in 2004, he moved to Buffalo and affiliated with Westminster Presbyterian Church, where his wife has become an elder and a deacon.
He enjoyed kayaking, camping and gardening. He traveled extensively in the U.S. and abroad. He also was a lover of music and the arts and an avid reader of the classics, biographies, poetry and mysteries. In retirement, he served as a volunteer usher for Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concerts.
In addition to his wife and daughter, survivors include a son, Paul; a sister, Kathy Keaton; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 28, in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.