Eye on KELOLAND: Finding home


What if a series of setbacks and wrong turns actually led you to the right place? That’s how Ron and Renee Keel feel. Ron is a musician and Renee has five degrees and a long career in government and law enforcement. Both took a gamble and moved to Sioux Falls for a pair of jobs that didn’t pan out, and then they faced losing even more. Through it all, they’re thankful they’re in South Dakota.

“Look out the window. Look out the window,” Renee Keel said, framed in a large window overlooking fields of trees and sweeping hills.

Every household has a routine. Renee and her bird, Toots, like to greet the day from their living room.

“You see the sunrise every morning. That’s what we do,” Renee said.

Meanwhile, you’ll find her husband Ron in his home studio, guitar in hand, trying to get into rhythm.

There are many reasons why they love waking up in this house. Its wood walls, idyllic views, and picture perfect memories surrounding them. Most importantly, there’s one rule that makes it home.

“The first thing we say to each other every morning, ‘good morning, I love you today,” Ron said.

The husband and wife’s love story could be a song. Which is fitting, since Ron is a musician.

“As a part of that big ’80s metal hard rock explosion,” Ron said.

You may know him from his bands Steeler or Keel, or from his work with Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. Over the years, he’s racked up countless cans of hairspray and many many miles on the road traveling for gigs.

“I can’t even count the countries I’ve been to. I don’t even know exactly where I’ve been. I just know I’ve been a lot of places for a long time,” Ron said.

In one of those places, he met Renee, who was photographing one of his bands. The two hit off and got married within the year. More than four years ago, they moved to Sioux Falls to work at Badlands Pawn. Ron took a job as the leader of the house band and announcer on KBAD 94.5. Renee took on the role of general manager.

“Sioux Falls was a place that we probably had seen on a map or flown over. until we put down roots here and fell in love with the area,” Ron said.

They had lived everywhere from Hollywood to Nashville, but they found a life here in Sioux Falls.

“I walked through the doors and I immediately knew this is home,” Renee said.

“We fell in love with the wild wild Midwest, the people here have been so welcoming and gracious,” Ron said.

Everything seemed to be working out for the Keels. That is, until it wasn’t.

“All of a sudden the business went out of business. We got our butts kicked,” Ron said.

Losing the jobs they moved here for was a lot to unpack, but the Keels didn’t pack up and leave. Good thing they didn’t, because the worst was yet to come.

“The job wasn’t the reason I was supposed to be here. The job is the carrot that needed to be dangled to get me to the zip code I needed to be in to save my life,” Renee said.

In 2016, 19 days before Badlands Pawn closed, doctors diagnosed Renee with stage two breast cancer. It quickly turned into stage three. 16 weeks of chemo led to eight surgeries and day after day of radiation. Renee says she could handle all of that.

She says the hard part was telling the love her life.

“I simply said, I have breast cancer. That scared me. Telling him and sharing it with him and how it would hurt him scared me more than anything else from then on out,” Renee said.

“It was the toughest conversation we’ve ever had, and I’m very thankful we were in South Dakota when she was diagnosed,” Ron said.

The couple credits Sanford doctors with saving Renee’s life, but they found a different kind of medicine they weren’t expecting. They found support from the community in the place they call home.

“Strangers and neighbors and friends and people I didn’t even know existed were donating and emailing,” Renee said.

Brady Mallory: “Do you think you would’ve found that in any of the other places you lived?””

Renee: “Without a doubt, no.”

“We were here for a reason. If she was going to get diagnosed with cancer, we’re in the right place for it to happen,” Ron said.

The Keels are finding their rhythm again. Ron has re-branded the house band into the Ron Keel Band. You can hear him on his weekly show Streets of Rock N Roll on Sunny Radio every Saturday night. Renee’s health is good, and she even wrote a book about her experience. Her book, “Anything But Pink: On Becoming a Cancer survivor,” is set for publishing this fall. Above all else, the two are thankful they’re here together.

“We’re home. We plan on staying. We’re here for good. You’re not getting rid of us {laughs},” Ron said.

After all their journeys, literal and otherwise, take a lesson from Ron and Renee Keel. No matter where or who home is for you, don’t take it for granted.

“Life happens and it’s important to appreciate the moment, and stopping and saying, I love you today, just turns the focus on each other,” Renee said.

“The glass is always half-full. Life is an amazing thing. You’ve got to treasure it and live every day like your you’re on a one-day contract,” Ron said.

You never know what will happen tomorrow.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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