Sam Keeney remembered by York County church community

Nice job on short notice by reporter Stephanie Reighart capturing a little bit of the community affection for Sam Keeney, who died last week.

See Stephanie’s story here.

Sam Keeney smiles in this 2002 file photo. (York Daily Record/Sunday News)

I work Sunday nights with Stephanie and, as we tried to come up with sources for the story, I emailed my church list to see what responses we would get. We heard from the Rev. Tom Shelley before deadline, but most people are not thinking about their email on a Sunday night.

By mid-morning today, however, several folks had read my email and sent or called me with their memories of Sam, a longtime church organist who ran Sam Keeney Organ and Piano Center Inc. in York Township for many years.

Since the story has run, I wanted to share a few of these memories here (Check back. I will keep adding to these memories as I receive them):

* “I have known Sam all my life. When he started school in first grade, his mother asked if he could walk with me to school at Springfield Township Consolidated School. I was in fifth grade and she was concerned about Sam walking by himself along the highway. We walked to school together nearly every day for quite a long time.
“The LaRose Accordion Studio went door to door through Jacobus offering lessons to anyone who was interested, and at that time Sam began taking accordion lessons. Since we lived a few houses down the street from the Keeneys, we could often hear Sam practicing and learning to play the instrument. Especially in the summertime when the doors and windows were open, we could hear him for hours and hours at a time playing his accordion, developing his musical talent, eventually moving on to playing the organ.
“I have always had a great deal of respect for Sam’s musical talent and ambition from having observed his growth and development from the very beginning. His music has brought much joy and pleasure to many, many listeners and friends throughout his life. He has been an inspiration to many young people encouraging and teaching them the enjoyment that music brings into life. Sam will be missed by many.”

Donna Snyder, Organist
Christ United Methodist Church

* “I was so blessed and touched by Sam Keeney as he shared his music for many years at the York Rescue Mission Annual Banquet. As he played I just wanted to join in and lift praise to the Lord with him. Sam will be greatly missed. Well Done, Good & Faithful Servant!”

“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matt. 25:23.

Cindy Jacobs

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Sam Keeney remembered by York County church community

  1. Rev. J. Thomas Shelley says:

    I understand the need for brevity in news stories, and hence the necessity of editing.

    Nevertheless, I would like to share the full text of what I submitted in tribute to Sam:

    “I don’t know where to begin with Sam Keeney….I first met him as a teenager when he would have a display in Memorial Hall at the York Fairgrounds. He would let me play the demo instruments even though I had only just begun to take organ lessons.

    When my home church (Calvary UM, York) was destroyed by an arson fire my parents bought a spinet organ from him for use in the temporary worship space that was being used.

    Around the time that I received my first UM pastoral assignment to the former Windsor Area UM Parish the powers that be at Calvary informed my parents that they no longer wanted the organ and would they please remove it. The timing was perfect because the organ at the former Bittersville UM Church (one point of the parish) was beyond repair.

    But when Sam Keeney checked over the organ prior to moving it he determined that it really was not suitable, and offered to trade it for a better instrument at no cost. That instrument served the Bittersville congregation until well after my departure.

    There is more to this story: In the late 1990’s the Bittersville folks contacted me wondering if it would be OK if they replaced that organ for another which was being donated by Dwight Sigel, whose deceased wife Shirley had had a very nice instrument in her home. Of course, I replied, but could I please have the black brocade paraments (which Bittersville never used in recent years) for use at Zion (Shaffer’s).

    So out of the ashes of the arson fire at Calvary came the black paraments at Zion (Shaffer’s) which are used only on Ash Wednesday…and this facilitated in no small part by Sam Keeney.”

    + + +

    Sam’s Gospel Quartet the Versetones were annual guests for our October Rally Day service until that groups’ disbandment. Of all of their selections our folks best enjoyed their rendition of “Dry Bones”, greatly enhanced by the many percussion sounds that Sam would produce on his Clavinova keyboard.

    “”Can these bones yet live’?–’Thou knowest, O Lord”"

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