Eleanor L. Keys passed from this life on the morning of October 29 at the John Clarke Nursing Center in Middletown, at the age of 89. Eleanor Keys was a native Newporter. She attended Newport public schools and graduated from Rogers High School in 1941. She had always demonstrated astute abilities for drawing, which led soon after high school, to her enrolling in a technical drafting course that resulted in her enjoying a distinguished 33-year career working as a draftsman, as a Navy civil servant. She first worked at the old Newport Torpedo Station on Goat Island during the war, until 1946 and at the former the Naval Underwater Systems Center (now the Naval Undersea Warfare Center), where she retired from in 1986. Eleanor once recalled that a man told her that he had never worked with a woman before. "I told him that if he respected me as I respect myself, we would have no problem."
Eleanor was adamant about giving back to her Newport community. She worked as a member of various non-profit organizations and as an active civic volunteer. One of her best known passions was her pursuit of promoting the positive Black History of Newport. These ideas she championed in local school classrooms, where she delivered presentations featuring Black historical figures in the context of contributions to US history in general.
Eleanor was a long-time active member of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and of the Newport Historical Society. She was also instrumental among those who worked to establish a permanent monument at Patriots Park in Portsmouth, dedicated to the pivotal role of the First Black Rhode Island Regiment during the American Revolution. She was a member of Community Baptist Church, The Women's Newport League and for a time also served as the President of the Newport Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
One of her favorite charities, for which she tirelessly worked, was The Box Project, a non-profit action organization based in Plainville, CT. The Box Project delivered friendship, information and material aid to needy families in Sunflower, Mississippi.
Mrs. Keys was recognized in Rhode Island for her work. She received numerous awards and citations for her civic work including the City of Newport "Medal of Honor" Award, the Newport Daily News Community Service Award, established as part of the newspaper's 150th anniversary and the 1978 George T. Downing Award, named after a prosperous 19th-century Black businessman and prominent Newport citizen.
Mrs. Keys was the daughter of Newport business man Louis Walker, the builder of the now Walker Building on Bridge Street, and Sarah Jackson Walker also a native Newporter. She was married to local transportation business owner, the late John Keys, who valued and supported his wife's life work. She had a daughter, the late Helen R. Keys, a nationally respected Washington, D.C. Social Work professional. She is survived by her son Fine Artist, John W. Keys and her oldest sister Sarah M. Pener of Newport , as well as many nephews nieces, nephews and loving friends.
Calling hours will be held Thursday, November, 8 from 6:00-9:00 in the Memorial Funeral Home, 375 Broadway, Newport, RI.
Funeral Services will be held on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 10:00am in the Community Baptist Church, 50 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Boulevard, Newport, RI. Burial will follow in Newport Memorial Park, Middletown.
Newport Memorial Park
NOV 8. 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Memorial Funeral Home
Newport, RI, US, 02840
NOV 9. 10:00 AM
Community Baptist Church
50 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Boulevard
Newport, RI, US, 02840