A MESSAGE FROM THE FAMILY

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OBITUARY

James Clifford Keen

September 9, 1941November 24, 2020
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Keen, James Clifford, of Ann Arbor passed away Tuesday, November 24th at home, surrounded by his loving wife, children, and grandchildren. He was 79 years old. Visitation will take place Wednesday, December 2nd from 2-4 pm and 6-8 pm at Muehlig Funeral Chapel, 403 S. Fourth Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, followed by a private service on Thursday, December 3rd at 11:00 am. The service will be live-streamed on Muehlig’s Facebook page. Jim was born in Ann Arbor, MI on September 9, 1941, the son of Clifford Patrick Keen and Mildred Ella (Smith) Keen. While Jim was in high school, Cliff Keen invented the sport of wrestling’s first protective headgear. From this invention, Jim built Cliff Keen Athletic, the world’s largest manufacturer of wrestling equipment and uniforms. Involved in the sport for over 65 years, Jim positively impacted the world of wrestling in many ways: as a competitor at the University of Michigan under his father, Coach Cliff Keen; as an inventor of wrestling equipment; as CEO of Cliff Keen Athletic; as a tournament sponsor; and as a legislative liaison. Jim also was involved with USA Wrestling, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame –serving as its chairman from 2004-2013. In 2004 he received the Hall of Fame’s Order of Merit for his contributions and service to the sport of wrestling. Jim was also known to support many individual athletes and programs throughout the country. In addition, Jim served on the board of the Michigan Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was a past president of the University of Michigan Letterwinners M Club, and later received the club’s prestigious Bob Ufer Award. U of M honored him with the Don Lund Award, and he was a recipient of the Bob Ufer Quarterback Club’s Bennie Oosterbaan Award. Jim was active in the local Ann Arbor community, serving on the boards of Ann Arbor Bank and Trust, First of America Bank, and Ann Arbor Commerce Bank. Jim loved golf, joined both Barton Hills and Washtenaw Country Clubs, and enjoyed many enduring friendships. He coached multiple youth baseball and hockey teams, mentoring numerous kids through the years. He also played hockey until age 70 with his many friends in the Ann Arbor and Chelsea adult leagues. Jim is preceded in death by his parents, Clifford Patrick Keen and Mildred Ella (Smith) Keen, and his sister, Shirley (Keen) Leahy. He is survived by his loving wife, Mary (Pope) Keen, whom he met in physics class at UM. They were married on August 17, 1963 and lived happily together for 57 years. He also is survived by his sister Joyce (Keen) Novak and husband Robert Novak; son James Jr. and wife Bonnie (Hassenfeld), their children Gabrielle and Molly; daughter Caroline (Keen) Gould and husband Christopher Gould, their children Ashley, Mary-Grace, Lila, Johnny, and Gina; and son Thomas and wife Claudia (Cabrera), their children Sofia, Isabel, and Elizabeth. Jim would be the first to comment that his greatest legacy was his family. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jim Keen’s honor to the Alzheimer’s Association and to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Services

  • Visitation

    Wednesday, December 2, 2020

  • Visitation

    Wednesday, December 2, 2020

  • Private Family Funeral Service

    Thursday, December 3, 2020

    VIEW VIDEO

Memories

James Clifford Keen

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Greg Ryan

December 3, 2020

I was really moved after watching the Jim Keen memorial service online. Jimmy, Tommy, Caroline, and grandchildren shared some great memories and really captured his legacy. I admire so much about “Uncle Jim” especially his unique combination of kindness and success. I was lucky enough to be a part of several “Uncle Jim” and “Big Doug” sandwiches. No better feeling.

Edd Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Edd Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Edd Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Edd Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Edd Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Edward Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Edd Bankowski

December 2, 2020

Many great memories of Jim and his family......I've know Jim since maybe 1983 and our friendship continued to grow over the years through ordering uniforms when I coached at Bedford, to attending his dad, Cliff's funeral, to coaching and working camps at Michigan, UM golf outings, UM wrestling banquets, serving on the board together with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame/Michigan Chapter and more. A couple of my favorite memories with Jim, and his family include, with the help of Sandy Stevens, my instituting the standing of fans at the NCAA Finals, beginning with 20 years and counting "down" 25 years, 30,34, 40, etc. until only one or 2 guys were left....Jim Keen was the last man standing! The other was having nominated Jim and his family for the Family Legacy Award/National Wrestling Hall of Fame/Michigan Chapter......it was a lot of fun working with them in terms of getting information and photos......Jim Keen....great personality, super friendly, very giving and caring, great family, great for our sport.....known throughout the world of wrestling....RIP Jim (love you) Edd Bankowski

Joe McFarland

December 2, 2020

Chad Clark

November 30, 2020

"Senior" will always have a special place in my heart.
I was lucky enough to get to know Jim in what seems like a former life. I was always impressed by his friendliness and generosity, often inviting me to visit his lake house, well before I moved to Michigan. It was Senior who helped me out of a dismal situation and offered me a job in early 1999. I knew it was meant to be when I showed up for my interview and we were both wearing the same tie! Not planned, I swear. We both got a kick out of that and his boys often reminded me that was the only reason they gave me the job! But that was Senior, always so generous and wanting to help people.
I had the pleasure of working for and alongside Senior for the past twenty-two years. He was a tremendous mentor, friend, and so much more than a boss ever could be. In many ways, Senior was like another father to me, and I knew I could always turn to him when I needed counsel on something; anything.
I will forever be grateful to Jim, and he will be missed immensely by so many people whom he touched and cared for. I'll miss you, buddy. God bless you, Senior!

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