By Cindy Rank
The word “April” brings to mind visions of a season of hope and transformation – awakening and new growth – increased light nudging the sleeping earth to rise up and face the new year and what awaits.
‘April’ Pierson-Keating embodied all of that – and more.
It was as if her naming foretold her life’s work for her 52 short years on earth.
She was a challenge to the sleeping and unaware…. A conscience to those who might want to ignore uncomfortable realities…. A warrior sister with a twinkle in her eye.
April fanned the flames of enthusiasm in those already involved in protecting the earth and she lit more than a few new flames in folks along the way.
Mentor to appreciative students during her work at WV Wesleyan College; April was also known, loved and admired by oh so many more these past 10 years as her environmental awareness and activism reached beyond Wesleyan.
Known mostly for her concern about water and clean energy, her presence was felt at home in Upshur County WV and throughout the state and region.
Disruption of people’s lives as gas pipelines pushed through their property, pipeline impacts of erosion, stream degradation, and the additional drilling and compressor stations and cracker plants all caught her attention.
She seemed to be everywhere – active with state wide environmental organizations and regional coalitions dealing with the unjust and polluting aspects of the gas industry, she could just as easily be seen holding events or speaking about local water concerns at city council and county commission meetings.
When her unrelenting cancer finally silenced her on September 28, 2019 – only days after she attended a National Sierra Club meeting in San Francisco, dozens upon dozens of tributes flooded websites and email listserves from individuals whose lives had been touched and organizations that had benefitted from her activism and energies.
On the more local scene, her obituary included comments by Buckhannon, WV Mayor McCauley who stated in his City’s BEST Award proclamation in May 2019, “Mrs. Keating is a supreme protector of our environment. She is a lobbyist for clean water at both our state & federal governments, a participant in Buckhannon’s Community Unity & Kindness Day, the Equality march, the Science march, and other awareness activities. April is a fervent advocate for clean energy adoption and acceleration, a charter member of Create Buckhannon and a member of Southern Upshur Business Association. April Keating has helped us all in our Buckhannon-Upshur community to be happier and healthier in many ways”.
Comments by Cindy Ellis of the WV Highlands Conservancy are reminiscent of many from the environmental community: “April Pierson-Keating has been characterized in many tributes as ‘fierce’. I remember her that way too. But her ferocity was tempered by a deep zest for life that was remarkable too. She was moreover, even in the depths of a terminal disease, indefatigable. When we and our allies arranged events focusing on Water and Wellness, April was always there. When conference calls paused with the question, “Who could do that?” April reliably responded, and even summoned up the time and energy to do the tasks in question. In word or in speech, she was a powerful advocate for the things that matter. Perhaps April’s biggest accomplishment may remain her ability to inspire others to try to do at least some of the things that she did.”
April Dawn Pierson-Keating, age 52, of Buckhannon, WV, died Saturday, September 28, 2019 at the United Hospital Center in Bridgeport, WV. She was born April 27, 1967, in Charleston, WV, a daughter of the late Derek and Iris White Bell.
She is survived by her husband, Bernard Keating of Buckhannon; two sons, Pierson Keating of North Hollywood, CA and Thomas Keating of Buckhannon; one daughter, Laura Keating of Boston, MA; four sisters, Liz Bell of MI, Terry Bell of Ypsilanti, MI, Laura Pierson of Chicago, IL and Karin Pierson of Traverse City, MI and a companion, Kevin Campbell of Adrian, WV.
Mrs. Pierson-Keating is the founder of the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, the Buckhannon Riverfest and a founding member of POWHR (Preserve Our Water Heritage and Rights). She was a board member of the Buckhannon River Watershed Association, a board member of ICARE which is a cancer research group, a board member of the WV Environmental Council, a member of the Sierra Club, the WV Highlands Conservancy and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. She was recipient of several environmental and public service awards.