Hundreds Gather to Remember Activist Ken Keechl

Ken Keechl (right) and Ted Adcock. Photo by JR Davis.

It was more laughter and cheers than sorrow and tears. Hundreds turned out to remember the life of Ken Keechl, a public servant who touched the lives of every LGBTQ person in Florida.

The community meeting room at The Pride Center was filled with friends, family, and longtime political allies on Oct. 10. He passed away on Sept. 1. While the loss still hurts, the six weeks between his death and the memorial allowed people to look past the pain and share fun, happy memories.

Stacy Ritter, once a county commissioner and currently head of Visit Lauderdale, talked about how Keechl could get his point across with the flip of his luxuriously thick head of hair.

“With a toss of that gorgeous mane of his, blond with just enough silver to make it look like it was real, he would get it done.”

The evening was held by the Dolphin Democrats, the largest LGBTQ+ political club in Florida. Keechl was a past president of the group. While his sister was in attendance, most of the crowd knew Keechl from his rough and tumble political days.

Michael Albetta emceed the evening, and remembered his friend as a fighter for the LGBTQ community.

“His name is famous in Broward County as the first openly gay mayor of the county. The man said, ‘I ain’t afraid of nobody and I’m gonna do it.’”

He was talking about Keechl’s campaign, where he knocked off a powerful Republican politician to win a seat on the Broward County commission.

Keechl eventually lost reelection, but his impact on LGBTQ politics was far from over. As an attorney, he forged case law that helped define legal rights for LGBTQ families and long-term partners at a time when even civil unions weren’t recognized in Florida.

Dean Trantalis, Fort Lauderdale’s current first gay mayor, remembered spending a tight election night with Keechl.

“Precinct after precinct, I was down as the votes came in. Keechl was sitting by the computer [on edge]. He was getting red in the face and having his third glass of white wine. We were biting our nails until the last precinct came in overwhelmingly for me.”

Trantalis won by 18 votes.

“Those moments, and more like that, we all shared with Ken.”


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