TRAVERSE CITY — Gene Martin Keilitz passed away on Saturday, April 19, 2014, with his family by his side. He was born June 3, 1933, in Caro, to Otto E. and Mildred (Horst) Keilitz.
He graduated from Caro High School in 1951 and attended the National College of Chiropractic in Chicago. Knowing he could be drafted, Gene enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed in Georgia, Alabama and Hawaii.
Upon his honorable discharge in 1959 he returned to Michigan and rather than practice chiropractic medicine, Gene entered the field of scientific and educational equipment sales. In the late 1960s he ventured north to Traverse City and purchased Gustely’s Country Place Restaurant on East Bay and changed the name to The Pewter Bell. As Gene was establishing his business in Traverse City a high school friend introduced him to Marlene Keihl and her nine year old daughter, Kelli, from Ann Arbor. Gene and Marlene were soon married, bought their first home in Traverse City and the family expanded with the birth of daughter, Kirsten. When Timberlee Ski Hill went into bank receivership Gene was appointed as general manager. After Timberlee closed Gene assisted with the establishment of Chateau Grand Traverse as its first chief financial officer.
The family relocated to Frankenmuth in 1977 only to return to their beloved Traverse City in 1979. Gene then continued his career in sales until he was able to turn his longtime volunteerism into a career by being appointed the executive director of the United Way of Northwest Michigan. His professional career culminated as the vice president of United Way of Michigan in Lansing.
Gene retired in 1996 and returned to volunteering in Traverse City. Gene was an active member of the Traverse City Rotary Club for many years. He volunteered at Camp Roy-El and for the Salvation Army, was pivotal in the development of Leadership Grand Traverse and TCAPS Sci-Ma-Tech Academy, traveled to Puerto Rico with Habitat for Humanity, served on the Traverse Bay Regional Planning Commission and was Chair of the Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation Board of Directors.