Paying tribute to a wonderful writer and magnificent man
This page is usually reserved for my humour column, but for this issue I instead pay tribute to Tom Keyser, who suffered a fatal heart attack on Oct. 2.
Tom was a great friend to many and was a faithful, loving husband, father and grandfather. He was my main writer for Business Edge News Magazine, penning nearly all front-page 20 Questions profiles and features on specific companies for the last several years.
One of the most creative storytellers in the country, he was also a remarkably efficient writer. Tom worked out of the Business Edge office on occasion, and I always marvelled at his speed. Watching him write was like watching a concert pianist; words flowed with uncommon ease and beauty.
I will never forget the first time he wrote an advertorial feature (no byline as it was not editorial) for one of my customers. He drove from his home in southwest Calgary to interview my client in his downtown office at 10 a.m.
At 10:30, my client called me, quite perturbed. “Your writer took off just as we were starting to tell our story!” he said.
I was remiss in failing to mention that Tom could be more than a little blunt. He was the furthest thing from a corporate ass-kisser. That client paid upwards of $7,000 for that feature and expected to have more time with my star writer. I apologized and explained that Tom had probably done a lot of research and was unlikely to disappoint with his writing. My customer was skeptical.
Tom submitted the feature at 12:30 p.m., less than two hours after his abrupt departure . . . and he had a 30-minute drive home! I waited 48 hours to send the feature to the client as it would only make matters worse if he knew that Tom took less than 90 minutes to write this expensive feature.
When I finally forwarded the story, I was aware that although I thought it was a great read, the client might not see through his bias from the disappointing interview experience.
My customer called within an hour: “I have no idea how he did it, but he nailed it! He told our story better than any of us ever have!”
Phew! Another happy customer, and another example of how Tom’s pen was mightier than the sordid.
If you did not have the pleasure of knowing Tom Keyser and/or his writing, please check out his Facebook page, on which tributes continue to pour in.
Tom used Facebook to make us all chuckle and to inspire us with noteworthy performances, milestones and achievements. The dude was a hippie who lived life to the fullest in the 1960s and ‘70s, at one time partying with the Grateful Dead in a hotel room.
His favourite Facebook topics were music and baseball but he highlighted many genres. As one of Tom’s former Calgary Herald colleagues put it, his Facebook page is “a wonderful archive of wise suggestions on music and literature, and a fine example of the art of critical thinking.”
I will leave you with Tom’s final Facebook post on Oct. 1, the day before he died, far too young at 68. It was typically colourful as he delivered a YouTube link to the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead:
“My lowlife friends and I bought a bunch of cheap wine and watched this gobsmacker of a horror movie at a drive-in during its initial run, having no idea what we were in for. Not that we didn’t enjoy watching a teenage girl zombie drive a garden trowel into Don Rickles’ face.”
Thanks for the memories, Tom. Rest in peace!