By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- A lifelong resident of Kansas City, Kan., the late Keith Lindsey was an outstanding athlete, coach, teacher and businessman.
But it was his caring and giving to young people that made him one of Wyandotte County’s most beloved and respected citizens – and an inductee into the Kansas City Kansas Community College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Tragically killed in a one-car accident on Christmas Day 2003, Lindsey was also enshrined in the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame in 2008 and the annual KCKCC Golf Scholarship Scramble also bears his name.
His alma mater, Wyandotte High School, and the Kansas City Coaches Association have likewise honored Lindsey and Washington High School hosts an annual Keith Lindsey volleyball tournament in a building where a banner proclaims, “Keith Lindsey: Teacher, Coach, Friend.”
As owner of Varsity Sports for 28 years, the stories of his generosity to athletes and others in need are endless. “It’s unbelievable. He was so giving. To a degree he was almost too generous and could have made a lot more money but that wasn’t Keith,” says Jim Woods, who worked with Lindsey for 27 of those 28 years.
“We’d have coaches call about a kid who had no money and Keith would tell them to come by and he’d give them a glove or shoes and then tell them, ‘Young man, play hard and come back and see me some time.’ Or he’d hear of kids and say, ‘Let me find some stuff’ and he’d fix them up with no charge. There were times when people in the military would come by and he’d give them a bunch of balls and gloves to be sent over seas for our troops.”
“The thing is that he never wanted anyone to know he was doing it,” says Cindi Kepler, who worked for Lindsey for 10 years. “He wanted to be that silent person and never wanted to be paid back.”
“Many people have told me stories of the times that Keith gave things to the families of school children who did not quite have the means to purchase the school supplies they needed for PE or athletic activities,” says Lindsey’s brother, David. “They also said he encouraged them not to tell anyone about these arrangements, which is perhaps one of the reasons more than 1,000 people came to pay their respects at his visitation.”
“He was also a helluva basketball player but he would never talk about that either,” says Woods. “He always said (All-American) Lucius Allen made him look good but he was really good.” A 1965 Wyandotte graduate, Lindsay was a starter with Allen on two state championship basketball teams and then was a member of an NAIA District championship team at Pittsburg State before transferring to Hardin-Simmons where he was a three-year letterman.
What Lindsey did enjoy was talking about others. “Customers would come in and the first thing he’d always want to know was ‘How are your kids doing’ or “How’s your family,’ “ says Woods.
Unlike most athletes going into coaching, Lindsey majored in English in college. He started his teaching and coaching career at Maple Park Junior High in North Kansas City and then was a basketball assistant and English teacher for three years at Washington High School where one of his English students was Jim Woods.
“He was an awesome teacher, really, really good,” says Woods. ‘He made students want to learn. How can you make English fun but he did. He made you want to come to class. And then when you’d get to basketball practice, he wouldn’t ask if you were ready to play, he’d want to know how you did in a classroom.”
He took over as head boys coach at Turner in 1974 and coached two years before leaving teaching to open Varsity Sports in 1976.
“I started working for Keith while I was in high school and continue to work for him while I went to William Jewell,” says Woods. “When I got out, he wanted to know what I wanted to do and I said probably teach and coach. Instead, he offered me a fulltime job. Although I wasn’t his partner, he’d always introduce me as his partner. It was just the kind of guy he was.”
Next to his wife, Susan, and their children, Jon David, Krista and Brooke, and eight grandchildren, Lindsey’s greatest pride came from growing up in KCK where he attended Chelsea Elementary, Northwest Junior High and Wyandotte. That pride is reflected by a “Dotte” logo he designed for shirts and other apparel so others would know of the pride of Wyandotte County.
“The days spent at those three schools were very important to Keith and he frequently discussed all of the experiences he had there and how they shaped his life,” says David Lindsey. “He was very proud of his KCK background and felt he was most fortunate to grow up in such a diversified community. The heroes in Keith’s life were educators. His teachers and coaches made such a positive contribution to his sense of values and ideas about who he was.”
One of nearly a dozen persons who nominated Lindsey for the Education Hall of Fame, Harold Spillman wrote: “Being able to say ‘Keith Lindsey was my friend’ will die with our generation but his induction will keep his legacy burning forever in the ‘Dotte.’ ”