Professor Leon Keer- A Life Well Lived

Celebrating Leon Keer's 85th birthday
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To our Splash Magazine Worldwide readers,

I write this with a heavy heart and somewhat in shock.  Six years ago, when my brother, Lawrence Davis, tragically passed away, I made the decision to continue Splash Magazines Worldwide as long as I could.  At that time my husband, Leon Keer, was traveling with me, going to restaurants, plays, concerts and we enjoyed special experiences together. I often wrote about our experiences. We enjoyed each adventure.

About six years ago, Leon was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and after a few years he was diagnosed with an additional degenerative disease.  Each of these diseases “fought” one another.  His attitude was remarkable as his body continued to disappoint him.  He was puzzled by his balance problems and began using a cane.  When the cane was not providing enough stability, he selected a jazzy walker and used it handily. As his mobility decreased, he accepted a wheel chair and even liked it. We managed to keep him from falling to the ground.  We stayed home most of the time and wore masks as needed and he avoided COVID.  But, sadly, he passed away in the hospital of unknown causes on January 12th.  He was the love of my life, my best friend and a very special and important person to many people around the globe.

Northwestern University, where he has been a professor emeritus for about 10 years, shared the story of his years of working with students and colleagues. Leon Keer’s obituary

A more personal story is on the Chicago Tribune Legacy website

Because Leon’s research was respected, he had many opportunities for travel when he was invited to attend conferences or present lectures.  I would always try to tack on a hotel stay, a restaurant, possibly a museum and tell our unique stories.  I am including links to several travel articles that relate to moments and experiences that Leon loved.

Symi, Greece

Shortly after Leon decided to retire, one of his colleagues who is from Symi, Greece organized a symposium in his honor.  Little did we realize that his difficulty with managing the stone steps was a warning and that his balance would get worse as the time went on.

University of California, San Diego, Professor Xanthippi Markenscoff, a colleague of Leon’s, arranged for a symposium to celebrate his retirement on the Greek Island of Symi.
Barbara Keer, Leon Keer, Xanthippi Markenscoff in Evanston, Illinois
As the ferry leaves Symi

Symi Greece Review – Rugged and Beautiful

A Pair of Leon Keers

In 2011 we were in Paris and decided to go on to Utrecht to see Leon Keer, the artist.  Professor Leon Keer was emailed by Artist Leon Keer, suggesting that they might be the only two people to have this name. Since the artist’s work interested us,  we considered purchasing a large painting.  Ultimately we did purchase the painting had it shipped and hung and Professor Leon enjoyed looking at the painting for several years.  In the meantime, Artist Leon Keer has written a book and spends his time doing 3D chalk drawings.

Professor Leon Keer and Artist Leon Keer
Two Leon Keers in the artists’ studio

Leon Keer, Artist, Utrecht, Netherlands – A Tale of Two People with the Same Name

The China National Tea Museum and West Lake

Leon was invited to China in 2012 along with a group of colleagues from Northwestern. The professor who invited us to visit the university and to give a talk had to be away for part of our stay. We were in a beautiful area west of Shanghai.  We visited West Lake on our own but a student drove us to The China National Tea Museum and picked us up.  It was fascinating.

Nearby West Lake is gorgeous and we explored that as well.

Leon and Barbara at West Lake

Yangtze River Cruise

There is a lady’s face in the mountain

M.S. Yangtze 2 Review – The Cruise on the Yangtze River was a Dream Come True


In the Fall of 2013, Leon was invited to attend a meeting in Turino.  It was a wonderful meeting where we met many friends and saw many places including the Shroud of Turin.  I was able to make some arrangements for our stay in Florence where I begged to go.  The hotel was the most beautiful that I have ever visited.

Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, robots mow the lawn

Four Seasons Hotel Firenze Review – Magnificent

Hollywood Roosevelt

In 2016, we were visiting the California Institute of Technology for Leon’s 60th class reunion.  The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel hosted us, 60 years after we were married there.

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Review – A Wonderful Visit After Sixty Years

Though Leon turned 85 in September of 2019 his entire family celebrated with him near Monterey, California, on the first weekend of January, 2020  Though he will be terribly missed, our family is thankful for the years in which Leon Keer brightened the world.

Photos are courtesy of Barbara Keer unless otherwise noted.



  1. Barb and family, Today I heard of Leon’s passing. This is so sad. I worked with him and we published papers over the years. He was such a great resource for our life prediction equations. We would ask his opinion and make many visits to Evanston to learn from him. We continue to advance the fracture mechanics (crack growth) studies that he developed.
    He was such and kind soul and I was so blessed to have met him and learned from him and spent time with him in academics and business.

    • Thank you so much for your very kind words which mean so much to me. Please tell me where you are located – just curious. Take care,


      • Barbara,
        FYI. Mike worked in the following companies:
        Power Train Engineering/Chief Technologist, InterSynInterSyn, 2007-
        Chief Transmission/Chief Technologist Engineer, Eaton Corporation, 1978-2007
        He often attends the CSET meetings.
        Iris and I are very sorry for your loss of Leon.
        Professor Keer has been such a great professor to me and I really loved his classes during my time at NWU. He and you have been so nice to us, and we both really enjoyed the gatherings in your house and all our time together. You two are our model of ideal husband-and-wife!
        I have admired him for achieving so high in his career and being so inspiring to others. He will be dearly remembered in our hearts. He has been loved by many people, including Prof. Jiajiu Ma in Hangzhou China, who is my master degree advisor. He wrote: “I was shocked to learn that Dr.L.Keer passed away, and I am deeply saddened! Dr.L.Keer has been engaged in teaching and scientific research all his life and is an internationally renowned master in the field of contact mechanics. Dr.L.Keer is wise, kind, selfless, and friendly. He is our great mentor and we will forever remember his guidance! May him rest in peace!”
        Sorry, my wife and I just read your article. We really love all that you have shared. It is fortunate that you two have a great time and a very good picture together in Hangzhou.

  2. Dear Barbara, I was very sad to learn about Leon’s passing. He was a great mentor and friend to me when I was his Ph.D. student. (I graduated in 1982.) Leon set an example for all of us to aspire to. You and your family have my deepest sympathy.

  3. MY MY MY what a beautiful love story until the end. Both of you lived life to the fullest when you two were able to go and make great memories with each other. Ms Barbara, I know you are grateful you have Splash Magazine to share your great stories. Thank you!! I enjoyed the photos, and enjoyed knowing there are two Leon Keers forever!!!

  4. What a friend Leon was for 60 years. We met when he came to Minnesota for graduate study. My wife and I lived across a court yard in married student housing, his little girls were about the same age as our boys, and we shared rides to school. We had adjacent offices at U of M, but spent many afternoons at a table or two of grad student bridge. Then, after going home for dinner, went back to the U and spent half the night on our dissertations. It provided a work environment of total peace and quiet. After moving on from the U, we met occasionally, usually at a tech meeting,
    but communicated periodically. It was a true honor when he nominated me in the 80s for advancement to the grade of fellow in the ASME. His achievements made me proud to have known him since graduate student days. With confidence, I hired two of his PhD grads into my department. I will be thinking of you, Barbara, and hope your path forward does not contain any more severe bumps.

  5. Dear Barbara, I just met you and Leon through your wonderful articles and photos. I send heartfelt thanks to both of you for shining and sharing your lights. Warm regards, Deborah

  6. Dear Barbara, I was greatly saddened to learn about the passing of Leon, who was a friend and mentor while a graduate student at Northwestern. I extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  7. Hi Barb,

    I’m am very sorry for your loss of Leon. He was an amazing person and did so much during his lifetime, including the experiences you two shared together. This is a beautiful tribute to his memory. Please stay strong let me know if you need anything!

  8. A wonderful tribute to someone very special. Really enjoyed reading about the amazing places Mr. Keer’s work took the two of you and the unique experiences you had together traveling and adding in those “Splash stops” to explore. May God comfort you and your family- and may the memories of these very unique experiences continue forever to give you great joy.

  9. Barb, this was a beautiful tribute to Lee and I loved the way you highlighted some of his favorite places to visit. The pictures were wonderful too and they showed how happy Lee and his family were. Beautifully written and a lovely memory.

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