If you live in Ottawa and have ever turned on the TV then you know Max Keeping. If you live in Ottawa and have ever been to an event, then you know Max Keeping. If you have ever sat on a community board or table, then you know Max Keeping.
Father. Friend. Newsman. Volunteer. Ambassador. Humanitarian. Legend.
He is a man who has dedicated his life to his community for more than 50 years. You could describe him as the unpaid mayor of Ottawa. Max is one of the gentlest, kindest, caring and compassionate men I have or ever will meet. He is also incredibly humble.
Few are like him; many strive to be
What you won’t hear from Max is that he has helped raise over 140 million dollars for charities in Ottawa. From grassroots organizations to hospitals and foundations, including his own Max Keeping Foundation, he’s supported just about every need in our city. Thousands have benefitted from his fundraising. I’m not sure if I have ever been, well, quite frankly anywhere in this city where Max isn’t dancing around in his Arthur bespoke dress shirt.
Max doesn’t boast about the list of honours that would stretch across this city either. So please, let me name a few. He has received the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and a Gemini Humanitarian Award. Max is a recipient of the Ontario Medal of Good Citizenship, received a key to the city of Ottawa, was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame and was named United Way Ottawa’s Community Builder of the Year in 2004. He has also accepted honorary doctorate degrees.
Oh, and he also has a hospital wing named after him.
What he is quick to tell you, however, is a story. Max always has a story. I thought I could ramble but holy he deserves a babble crown. Or an oxygen tank so he can catch his breath every now and then.
The thing about Max is you know when he’s going to tell you a story. He glances ever so slightly over your shoulder before inching a bit closer, almost to ensure no one else is around or can hear, and raises his jewels. No. Literally. His jewels. Every finger is a Jubilee Jewellers mannequin. He then starts with, “so, I gotta tell ya.” It’s within that moment you’re hooked.
It’s for that exact reason that Max has had such an impressive career. He knows how to engage you. He started in the newsroom at just 14. Four.Teen. In 1964 he was in Halifax where he had a radio series appropriately named Keeping Speaking.
It was in 1965 that Max made Ottawa his residence. It was in 1972 that he made CTV (then CJOH-TV) his home. In this impressive career he delivered over 7,000 newscasts and countless other TV appearances. He has been associated with the CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) for 26 years. He has been known and loved by all over the years.
As families across Ottawa and the Valley had Max join them in their living rooms every evening at 6 o’clock for so long, he decided to be very candid about his diagnosis in 2003. He had prostate cancer. He didn’t leave our living rooms for long. He was back behind the desk before anyone really had the chance to miss him.
Nine years later after being hit with cancer the first time, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. He faced extensive surgery. As a community we prayed. And being the Max we all know and love, this opponent couldn’t slow him down. He has always embraced the philosophy of living today for today and that he did.
In March of this year, on day 511 of his second life, Max once again sat in front of the lens in his beloved Sens jersey and delivered heavy news to the community. He had been told by his doctors that the cancer he was fighting returned and metastasized in his lungs. Stage four. No cure.
“Oh, I’m not talking death, I’m talking living…to me, there’s a lot of life to live,” he quickly told his long-time co-anchor Carol Anne Meehan and Michael O’Byrne.
Dancing in the Street for Max
As he lives life to the Max a Facebook page has been set up in his honour. The page is Dancing in the Street for Max and reads:
We’re dancing in the street for Max, to honour Max Keeping who has always led us in the dance. Snap a pic of you and your friends and spread the joy here.
I have had the unbelievable privilege to work with Max. He has been a champion of United Way Ottawa for a number of years and devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to make change happen in our community. He headed up the of United Way Ottawa campaign in 2011. This was also the year Moves Like Jagger hit the charts and happened to be his favourite song.
Well Max, as we at United Way love you more than anything, we did more than just snap a pic. And it goes like this …
Please dance with us. Join the Facebook page and upload your picture or video to show your moves to Max.
We are all dancing with you my friend.