The following article is courtesy of the Lion's Den.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — James Lowell Keaton, 67, retiree of the Lion’s Den, passed away on Monday after battling complications from diabetes.
Jim was a key executive of the Lion’s Den prior to his retirement in January 2011 and a great friend to the Moran family.
Born in Middletown, Ohio, to Roger and Wilma Keaton, Jim is survived by his life partner Jack Ryan, his brother, John, and sister-in-law, Anita, as well as nieces and nephews and many friends.
Jim started with the company in October 1976 following a tour with the U.S. Air Force and soon became the right-hand man of Lion’s Den founder Mike Moran.
By 1980 Jim was heading up the operations department and was involved in locating and opening more than 20 Lion's Den locations during his tenure. Jim also managed EP&W (Excellent Pictures & Words), the company warehouse, and moved it from Miami to its current location in Columbus.
Jim was a real character, and we wanted to include some of the fondest and funniest memories that Lion's Den staff have of him:
- On one of his many beloved trips to Vegas, Jim, Jack, and Kenny; the Three Amigos; along with Mike Mucci were walking down the strip to their hotel. Jim looked up towards his room window and said, “Oh, you can see through them windows, I have been standing in front of them naked all week.”
- Ron Corey, current member of the EP&W team who was hired and mentored by Jim, tells us “Jim made the best fried chicken and loved to collect Coca-Cola memorabilia.” Jim also loved the cookouts that we have occasionally at the office — particularly the bratwurst.
- Phil Bunfill, manager of the eastern Ohio store, remembers Jim as a fierce protector of the Moran family as Jim would “never allow anyone to talk badly of them lest a shoe get stuck where the sun don’t shine.”
- Bob Ferrell, manager of one of the WV locations says, “When Jim showed up here, someone was getting fired and when he spoke, everyone listened. Jim always made me smile.”
- Jack Ryan spoke of a time when our beloved security tech, Woody, walked into the office and walked up to Jim and "depanted" him. Per Jack, “This is one of the few times I remember Jim being speechless.”
- Kenny Crosby, Lion's Den's very first employee, stated, “There was never a better friend than Jim ... he always had your back.
Jim was known for his love of all Lion's Den employees, and he had a signature sign off as famous here as Ed Sullivan’s “Really Big Show,” Carol Burnett’s tug on her ear and Gomer Pyle’s “Golly.
Jim simply stood, bent over and kissed the top of your head, every time.
So, Jim, here’s to you — XOXO — a kiss from your beloved Lion’s Den. We will miss you old friend.