MIDDLETOWN — Leanora Keeton will have tired legs and a heavy heart as she runs 3.1 miles on Mother’s Day morning.
While she’s racing in the Hospice Care of Middletown Mother’s Day 5K at Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum, she also will be remembering her late husband, Ashford “Buster” Keeton Jr., who died on Nov. 30, 2022. He was 84.
Keeton, 75, said after her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, he always was concerned about her wellbeing. It was their second marriage and they were married for 28 years.
“I always knew I’d be OK,” she said this week while sitting in Woodside’s Community Room. “But a part of me is missing. Trying to find that ‘new normal’ is hard.”
On those days, Keeton does what she truly enjoys. She either takes a five-mile walk or runs. Exercise and a healthy diet are important parts of her active lifestyle, said Keeton, who wants to live to be 100.
“I’m thankful to live this life,” she said. “You can’t pour from an empty cup. I knew I had to take care of myself if I was going to take care of him.”
Toward the end of her husband’s life, she contacted Hospice Care of Middletown. His last wish was to leave the nursing home and return home. When told he was going home at Franklin, he flashed the “biggest smile” his wife had ever seen, she said.
She said hospice provided medical care in their home, and in the months since her husband’s death, have continued offering grief counseling.
“They are so awesome,” she said. “They were always in my heart.”
With hospice’s support, she said, her husband’s “quality of life” continued.
“They lifted that burden off of me and helped me carry on,” said Keeton, who retired from American Savings Bank in Middletown. “They provided love and care all the way to the end.”
She said her husband once said: “Lord, I’m ready to come home so she can take care of herself.”
Keeton said her husband worked for 30 years in the welding department at Armco. On his first day, when he introduced himself to his co-workers, they said Ashford was “too formal” of a first name. So they nicknamed him “Buster” after Buster Keaton, an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker best known for his silent film work.
Keeton, who was diagnosed with leukemia in early November, just weeks before her husband’s death, runs in the Mother’s Day event, a fundraiser for Hospice Care of Middletown, as a way to pay back the agency for its services and support. She has run in 11 of the 13 races.
She will be joined at Woodside by her two children, Vivian Washington III and Lori Tomblin and several grandchildren.
Beth Dorn, community liaison for Hospice Care of Middletown, said the Mother’s Day event is one of two fundraisers, but more than raising money, its purpose is to bring the community together.
HOW TO GO
WHAT: 13th annual Hospice Care of Middletown’s Mother’s Day 5K. Timed participants can run or walk the 3.1-mile course throughout the cemetery or recreational walkers can walk a shorter looped course.
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Sunday
WHERE: Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum, 1401 Woodside Blvd., Middletown
HOW MUCH: $20. Registration closes at 8:15 a.m. Proceeds benefit services and programs provided by Hospice Care of Middletown.
MORE INFORMATION: hospicecareofmiddletown.org/runwalk
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