JAMES ROBERT KEYS
June 16, 1936 to December 23, 2020
By the time Bob Keys was in junior high school, he knew he wanted to be a camera operator. In 1954 he began his career at a local television station in Decatur, Illinois. His career included four Presidential Inaugural Galas and work that resulted in five Emmys, including Ben Vereen, Neil Diamond, and Julie Andrews Specials. Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas with Placido Domingo and John Denver was shot at The Sound of Music locations in Austria. He was on the first production crew in China to shoot a Bob Hope Special, and he filmed the Titanic on the ocean floor during the second expedition to the sunken ocean liner. In 1996 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Operating Cameramen.
Bob worked fifteen years for NBC doing specials and series with such stars as Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Doris Day, and Elvis. He shot The Academy Awards and The Hallmark Hall of Fame.
His credits include more than camera work. While in the military, he wrote the specifications and got approval for a closed-circuit educational television facility at Fort Bliss, Texas. In 1962 he built a television station in Honolulu where he directed on-air operations. Bob also loved sports cars and raced his Lotus in Hawaii in the 1960s.
Bob was a charter member of the Society of Operating Cameramen. In 1974 he joined the International Photographers Guild and quit NBC to freelance. Among the specials to his credit are thirteen of the Annual Kennedy Center Honors, Baryshnikov on Broadway, Barbra Streisand's One Voice, Carnegie Hall: The Grand Reopening, Neil Diamond: Hello Again, and the opening and closing of ceremonies for Liberty Weekend, the 1986 hundred-year rededication of the Statue of Liberty.
In 1983 he started operating the Louma crane on specials and concerts, both film and video. At one time, Jean-Marie Lavalou, one of Louma's inventors said, "You have more experience on the Louma than any other camera operator in the United States."
He shot from helicopters, rooftops, and a looping and spinning glider. He shot underwater on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and he dove with humpback whales in Hawaii. He worked with his Betacam in Bali, the Canary Islands, Aruba, Nevis, and many more locations.
Then in 1987 Bob was chosen to go on the French Titanic Expedition. On one of his dives two-and-a-half miles down, the submersible Nautile landed on the deck of the Titanic. On another dive, the pilot, copilot, and Bob were given the assignment to uncover and shoot the name on the bow. As a result, they were the first three to see the name TITANIC on the ship since the night she sank.
Bob's second career was on the Big Island of Hawaii. After retirement in 2001, he moved to his macadamia nut farm on the island and became part of the community, active in the Lions Club, the Kalahikiola Congregational Church, and the local growers' association.
Poor health brought Bob back to the mainland and to Layne Staral his beloved of thirty-five years in March 2020 for treatment at City of Hope. Bob is also survived by his brother John and sister-in-law Tessie.
Bobby was an observant man. He loved watching the contours of faces and light glittering over his subjects. His gift was the ability to secure the beauty of God's work and share it with others.
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