In the morning hours shortly after the Boulder Book Store opened its doors for the day, David Bolduc sat in the office of his beloved friend, Buster Keenan, reminiscing about the impact he had on those around him.
“For all his lovable characteristics, he couldn’t get rid of anything,” Bolduc, owner of the bookstore, joked when going through Keenan’s cluttered office.
Keenan died March 31 in his home in Boulder. He belonged to the Boulder Book Store family for over 30 years, joining the team in 1988. He previously lived with his family on a farm in western Oklahoma and later attended Oklahoma State University. He moved from Oklahoma to Colorado in search of inspiration within the mountains. Keenan sought more than a provincial life and started working at the bookstore where he quickly fell in love with the profession.
“The Boulder Book Store is not going to be the same without him. And you know since we were beyond the bookstore together, it’s just missing a friend,” said Mary McDaniel, a retired teacher, current substitute and close friend of Keenan.
Many of Keenan’s friends could not describe him in a brief summary, as Bolduc expressed Keenan possessed a combination of traits.
“It was so many different things. It wasn’t just like, ‘Oh, he was a nice guy.’ He was a nice guy, we did a lot of things together, he was extremely proficient in kind of taking care of our systems at the store, taking care of people and baking cookies all the time in our kitchen that people loved. And then he has this other quality of clutter, extreme clutter,” Bolduc joked again.
Employees of the Boulder Book Store all described Keenan as helpful, both in and outside the work environment.
“You could come to Buster with any problem and he would really try to work on it,” said Arsen Kashkashian, lead buyer and general manager of Boulder Book Store.
Keenan was dedicated to improving the shop in any way he could and went above and beyond his position because he understood the value of an independent bookstore. From searching for books to buy to holding down the fort by being the go-to handyman in an old building, he was a man of many talents.
“We’re in a very old building, it’s over 140 years old or something,” Bolduc said. “And it was constantly needing repair and maintenance. It was just us — I’m holding the flashlight, or he’s holding the flashlight and I’m doing this. So it was like two guys doing this stuff together. It had some kind of, I don’t know, ancient quality to that. You know — going out and doing that with your brother.”
Fellow friends of Keenan had no shortage of stories involving his sense of humor or love of social events.
Kashkashian recalled a memory that still makes him laugh — spending a weekend together in New York for a booksellers conference. Kashkashian said one of the giveaways the publisher gave them was a locked box with a prize inside. The numbers to unlock the box were going to be announced in the following days, but Keenan couldn’t wait, Kashkashian described.
“Buster’s trying every number,” Kashkashian said. “So finally at 11:30 at night I was like, ‘Buster I need to sleep, you can’t keep doing this.’ So then I think he went into the bathroom. So when I woke up in the morning, it was open, he had figured it out. That’s just kind of the tenacity he brought to the store.”
McDaniel worked at the Boulder Book Store in 1992 for about 11 years, where she met Keenan and connected with him over their love of music. They remained close friends, sharing happy hours and chats about the latest bookstore events.
“We went to lots of music festivals; we went to RockyGrass in Lyons a lot. We’d go to shows at the Boulder Theatre and the Fox and he always loved to dance,” McDaniel said.
Through his friends and loved ones, Keenan’s legacy is that of compassion, generosity, and of course — a love of literature.
“Any kind of circumstance like this you kind of revisit the painful parts, the irritating parts, and the loving parts and the helpful parts,” Bolduc said.
Buster Keenan memorial
The Boulder Book Store is hosting a celebration of life for Buster Kennan the evening of May 22. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share photos or stories about Keenan. RSVP with the link eventbrite.com/e/celebration-of-life-for-buster-keenan-tickets-315614189537.