Laura Lee Keller, originally of Erie, died Monday, July 30, 2012 at St. Francis Hospital in Topeka. She passed away after a protracted and courageous battle with cancer. Laura was 68.
Laura Lee Olson was born on Oct. 18, 1943 in Chanute. She was raised on a farm in southeast Kansas between Erie and Chanute, the daughter of Carl E. and Jewel Lyon Olson. Laura graduated from Erie High School in 1961. She was very active in school and participated in many activities including choir, theater, yearbook and school band.
After graduation, Laura moved to Kansas City where she modeled for Wolff Brothers on the Country Club Plaza before returning to southeast Kansas in 1963 to attend Kansas State College of Pittsburg. In 1964, she was married to John Michael Purdon, giving birth to two children: Lisa and Craig Purdon.
In 1971, Laura went back to college to complete her degree in Sociology while also studying many diverse subjects: she was fluent in French and had aspiring interests in archeology and psychology. She was a champion of civil and equal rights issues, volunteering and protesting for causes close to her heart. In 1973 she earned a B.A. in Sociology from Kansas State College of Pittsburg. Following graduation, she served as social worker for the Greenwood County SRS office in Eureka, where she met her second husband, Melvin Ray Keller, of Reading. The family moved to the Topeka area and gave birth to two children: Nicole and Jason Keller. Laura spent those years immediately following devoted foremost to raising her four children.
Laura was an enthusiastic music lover with a taste for travel, always encouraged her children to be explorers and see the world. In 1998, Laura was an honored guest for her son Craig Purdon’s exchange of wedding vows with Surachada “Polly” Niwatwong in Bangkok, Thailand.
Laura was a prolific reader and student of many disciplines. Once her children had grown, she set out on various career paths including lab technician and sample custody officer for the Kansas Department of Agriculture and engineering technician for the Kansas Department of Transportation. Her works afforded her the opportunity to travel across the state of Kansas, accompanied by her favorite sidekick, Gigi, a Japanese Chin breed of dog.
Laura was recently blessed to be surrounded by all her children, some of whom traveled great distances to be near her. In her final days, she enjoyed joyful times with her children and grandchildren.
Laura is survived by her four children: Lisa Purdon, artist and writer from NYC who recently returned to Lawrence with daughter Coy, Craig Purdon, teacher, of Topeka and daughter-in-law Surachada Purdon from Bangkok, Thailand, and children: Lilly and Peter, Nicole Keller, chemical engineer of Denver, Colo., and Jason Keller, owner of Kinetix Fitness, of Topeka; her brother Ronald Olson, farmer of rural Erie; three nieces, their husbands and children: Rhonda Olson Dubach and Jim of Wichita, and their two children; Robin Stricklin and husband David and their two children, of Pittsburg,; and Valerie Olson Engstrom and husband Stacey and their two children, of Erie.
She will be greatly missed by all.
Dove Cremation & Funeral Service in charge of arrangements.