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Former Madison County resident memorializes grandfather through scholarship

One of the most recognizable traits of Madison County is its people; and sometimes, even when someone who is a part of this community moves away, they create an impact even bigger than the one in their hometown. Barrett Waldrep is one of those people. He found a way to make a difference in students' lives with a scholarship dedicated to his grandfather, Charles Keeling of Pinetta. Waldrep grew up in Cherry Lake and graduated from Madison County High School in 1988. Waldrep is also an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran. His grandfather, Charles B. Keeling, of Pinetta was very influential in his life as a young man. Keeling was a Marine Corps veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam War. He taught Waldrep and his brother Donnie, who is also an Army veteran, the value of hard work, dedication and selfless service. Keeling believed in always putting others before himself. In the summer of 2002, Keeling passed away from complications related to COPD. His wife, Margie Keeling still lives in Pinetta. To ensure Keeling's legacy lives on, Waldrep decided to pursue a calling he had after graduating with his Master's degree from the physician assistant (PA) program at Union College in Lincoln, NE in 2014. Waldrep felt he should give back to the PA community and the incoming students and created a scholarship in memory of Keeling. From that, Waldrep created the Charles B. Keeling Selfless Service Award. The majority of the funding was provided by Ashley, Waldrep's wife; Donnie, Waldrep's brother and Brandi, Waldrep's sister-in-law. Funding was also received by monetary/resource donations from fellow Union College PA graduates who have military affiliations. The scholarship specifically targets first year PA students who have served in the armed forces, law enforcement or as a firefighter or first responder; it also targets those who have family who have served in any of the same positions. In order to apply for the scholarship, students must write an essay on what selfless service means to them and explain how they will apply that virtue as a future PA. This year's scholarship winner was Shannon Korth, a first year PA student and mother of two. Her husband is in the Air Force and is currently deployed in support of the Global War on Terror. Korth received a total of $500 and a commemorative award on Nov. 10. The money was given to Korth to use however she pleased, and she also had a perpetual plaque placed within the Union College physician assistant program building. As the Keeling Award Foundation continues to grow, Waldrep plans on increasing the monetary amounts. He also hopes the number of scholarships awarded increases. Waldrep hopes to be able to present the award around Veterans Day every year. Waldrep feels because his grandfather was very humble, he needed to find a way to honor him. “He was never one to talk too much about his time in the Marine Corps, he was even less likely to brag or draw attention to himself,” said Waldrep. “He'd rather go about his business, being who he was as a man, father, brother, grandfather and neighbor, and helping those who needed it without asking for anything in return. That is why I wanted to honor him. Who he was, is who I strive to be.” “[My grandfather] would probably say something jokingly along the lines of, 'what took you so long?',” said Waldrep about how his grandfather would react about the scholarship if he were still living today. “Then he would say that he is proud of me but I should not have named it after him as there are far more deserving service members out there to name it after.” As an added gesture, Waldrep surprised his grandmother with the news of the creation of the scholarship after it was given out. “She and I both had a good cry over it,” said Waldrep. “She said my granddad would be proud.”

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