On July 29th, Ellis Barlow Keener, M.D. passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family. He was married to Ann Stambaugh Keener, for over 67 years. His family and friends will miss him for the rest of their lives. There were two things Ellis loved throughout his entire life - practicing neurosurgery and his family.
Ellis was born in Murphy, N.C. on November 24, 1926, the second son of Nancy Tindell Keener and Horace Harvey Keener. He graduated from The McCallie School, Chattanooga, TN in 1944 and volunteered for the U.S. Navy when he was only 17. At 19 he was commissioned an Ensign in the USNR. After WWII he attended Emory University graduating from medical school with B.S. and M.D. degrees in 1950. He served as a surgeon during the Korean War on the USS Cascade A-16; then in Key West at the US Naval Hospital as a full Lieutenant where he met his future wife. They were married April 24, 1954. Following the war, he completed residency programs in New York; Queens College, London, England, and Montreal Neurological Institute, Montreal, Canada. In 1959, Ellis and Ann moved with four children to Atlanta, GA, adding two more boys to the brood in following years. Ellis practiced neurosurgery at most of the hospitals in Atlanta and was a consulting neurosurgeon for Yerkes Primate Institute. He established the Atlanta Neurosurgical Associates in 1964. Later, the practice expanded to Gainesville, GA, where he continued doing surgery and consultations at Northeast Georgia Medical Center until he fully retired in 1992. However, he kept his medical license until he was 91, volunteering at the Good News Free Clinic in Gainesville, and the Barrier Island Clinic in Charleston, SC.Ellis and Ann moved to The Marshes of Skidaway, Savannah, GA in 2015 to be near their daughter. In Savannah he was a volunteer for Hospice Savannah.
Growing up in St. Petersburg, FL, Ellis was the youngest boy, at 13, to achieve his Eagle Scout award. Three sons and one grandson also became Eagle Scouts. The same grandson has just become the newest Dr. Keener! Ellis remained life-long friends with several members from his troop.
Among the many positions he held, Ellis was the President of The Society of University Neurosurgeons, The Georgia Neurosurgical Society, the Georgia Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, The Georgia Surgical Society and the Georgia Composite Board of Medical Examiners. He was vice-president of the American College of Surgeons serving as Secretary of the Board of Governors. Ellis also served as the Editor-in-Chief of Clinical Neurosurgery. In addition, he was a Director of MAG Mutual Insurance Company. In 1993, he was selected the Neurosurgeon of the Year by the Southern Neurosurgical Society.
He was loved and is survived by his wife, Ann Keener; sister, Nancy Keener Brooks; cousin, Burton Spraker; daughter, Jane Mackenzie (Malcolm); and five sons: E. Barlow Keener (Jessica), John Keener (Brandy), Jere Keener (Mercedes), Bill Keener (Miriam), and Jim Keener (Millie). He was also loved by 13 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. He was predeceased by his mother, Nancy Tindell Keener, his father, Horace Keener, his brother Horace, Jr., and his dearly loved brother-in-law Beach Brooks (whom he met at McCallie and introduced to his sister on a blind date).
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice Savannah, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Skidaway Island, SHALSI - the Marshes of Skidaway Scholarship Fund, or Good News Clinic, Gainesville, GA.
The family is so appreciative of the staff at The Oaks at The Marshes of Skidaway for their tender loving care of Ellis for the last two months.
A service in his memory will be held on August 7, 2021 at 11:00 am at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Skidaway Island. Please respect all COVID protocols.
My thoughts and prayers are with y'all. Dr.Keener was a joy to be around, and I appreciated the knowledge he had to share, and seeing the bottle labels he had created!
- James Blackburn III, Savannah, GA
Dr. Keener will always be remembered, not only for his medical skills, but for his joyous, smiling, can-do attitude about life and helping others. We will both miss him greatly. Ann, our prayers are with you. Call on our assistance AT ANY TIME. Bill And Inez.
- Bill and Inez Izzard, Savannah, Ga
Ellis & Ann our great friends & colleagues over the years. We shared so much & now so many memories from Montreal to Atlanta. Ellis you were a true friend and an inspiration. You left a great legacy in so many ways. We love you and Ann & miss you dearly. Our condolences to your family. May God be with you. LaMar & Julia
- LaMar S. & Julia E. mcginnis, Atlanta, United States (+1)
We are all fondly remembering Dr Keener and all the fun times we had at the Coo-Kee lodge on Lake Lanier! He always had a great smile and enjoyed all his family and friends being together. We will be with you in spirit this week and pray God’s blessings on everyone during this time. With much love and prayers, Randy and Lynn Cooper Thomas and Wendy Cooper Catherine and David Posey David and Dedra Cooper and of course Doris and Floyd!
- Floyd Cooper family, Atlanta , Ga
We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your father, Jane. I remember meeting him and your mom at a small event years ago at your home and how he kept me entertained talking about Spain, among other things. He was a great conversationalist and we enjoyed meeting him very much. All the best to you and your family.
- Jay and Randi Butter, Savannah, Ga
Ellis was my partner and respected colleague from 1969 until 1987. I shall always remember his conservatism in his medical practice and his sense of humor in trying times. He was a good friend.
- Ernest Fokes, Coeur d' Alene, Idaho
Dr Keener was as close as any Uncle, the Keener kids as close as any cousins we Perots have had. Growing up in Montreal while our father & Dr K worked at MNI, we spent all vacations & fun times together. Thank you for sharing joy & good memories. We send you love & strength, peace & comfort.
- Deirdre L Perot, Rutherfordton, NC
Jane and Ann- I so enjoyed getting to know Ellis as a friend of my father. You are in my prayers for comfort and strength. Mary
- Mary Willis Sprague, Savannah, Ga
Dr Keener and Dr. Vandiver we the surgical team that attended to my dad’s brain tumor back in the mid 70’s at Dekalb General Hospital in Decatur. 18 hour surgery with another 3 hours added wen his BP bottomed our in recovery. He was an amazing man, Dr. and Servant leader. In the early 90’s when I had moved to Brunswick and had ruptured a disk in my lumbar spine my mom asked him if he could recommend someone in SE GA for me to see, he sent me to Dr. Worth with Savannah Neurological Associates and said if were him, that’s who he would see. It was the best referral I’ve ever had. Dr. Keener’s influence was generational. So sorry to see his passing but his life should be a testament for all to follow. God bless the family and may they all know and understand the impact of a life lived in service to his fellow man.
- Jeffrey Griffith, Jesup, Georgia
Jane You and your family remain in our prayers and thoughts during this time of bereavement. May your hearts remain joyful as you remember the great legacy of sich an amazing Husband, Father, Grandfather, Doctor and God fearinh individual. May all of you be blanketed with confort and peace. God bless, Rev. Clyde G Campbell
- Clyde G Campbell, Savannah, GA