Eulogy for Keith Kevin Swift Print E-mail
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Thursday, 29 April 2010 00:00

Delivered by Indira CraigKeith Swift

Keith Kevin Swift was born on November 30, 1979, to Greta Mossiah nee Goldson and Robert Swift. He was the youngest of eight siblings, and a shy, sometimes withdrawn child.  His siblings recall him usually on the sidelines, watching - and would always make sure to report back to mom about who did what (his sister Lynette called it snitching, but we in the media would call it journalism training). But this quiet mommy's boy was also determined: whenever he had a vision or a goal that he wanted to accomplish, he went after it with vigor and tenacity - traits which would come to define his professional pursuits later in life.

He started his formal schooling at Belmopan Community Preschool, Belmopan Infant and Junior Schools.  He then went on to the Belmopan Comprehensive School where he obtained a Diploma in Academic Studies.  Keith would always boast about his Belmopan credentials, that he was a central site boy, though he did leave the Garden City to attend St. John’s Junior College.
After he received a degree in General Studies, he made Belize City his home and ventured into the field of Journalism. As an intern with the Broadcasting Corporation of Belize in 1997, he distinguished himself as a prodigiously talented, instinctually gifted writer and a ferocious pursuer of the story. His first boss, Karla Heusner Wiles, recalls that within the first week at the BCB, she asked him to go get some street interviews--we call them vox pops--and she says that Keith returned in one hour with 40 interviews!

When the BCB was dismantled in late 1998 - and all the professionals there had to find work elsewhere - each media house was encouraged to take in a few of the staffers.  Based on the hearty and un-reserved recommendation of his former news director, Keith was picked up by Channel 7.  We were told that he was a writing machine. Karla marveled that he could write the same story five different ways - each of them uniquely engaging - for her five daily newscasts.  And lucky that she did give such a glowing recommendation, because Keith never had much to say for himself.

Still, Jules Vasquez took her word and decided to recruit the skinny kid from Belmopan who didn't say much. But like we say: breeze blow pilikin right weh ih wahn goh...And that was Keith. What Jules didn't know was that in about 1992 - while working on KREM Radio, Keith Swift then just a primary schooler but already with a deep desire to be in the media started sending me what were the cutest fan mail letters, via post, as a listener in Belmopan....who was not one bit shy about his affection for me and his plan to have me come to Belmopan and show the whole school who his personal radio buddy was...

So imagine my surprise when I met him for the first time as this shy, unremarkable new recruit to the 7 News team; the same little boy who so many years earlier wrote me those unforgettable fan mails. It was the first insight I had into the contrast between the bold public persona and the private reticence that would define Keith entirely as an adult...And as our friendship grew, so did my tremendous admiration for his craft, respect for his amazing talent and love for him as a dear friend and brother. Little did he know that positions would change and that I would be his biggest fan.

At Channel 7, his writing chops were immediately apparent, and as Keith came into the fore with two other young reporters--Dawn Sampson and Alfonso Noble--they both acknowledged his uncanny, unmatched speed at putting a story together and his ability to expertly navigate through any piece of writing. He never had writer's block.

And while he started out writing, his ambition was to be on camera.  Keith shadowed the background, silently watching his on-air colleagues, knowing that what they were doing, he could do. At 19, at the start of his on air career, no one would have thought then that he would end up doing it better and for longer.

From very early on, Keith defined for himself a style that was playful, but engaged and always open to what the story gave him; always able to surrender to where the story took him.

In 2001, after a brief stint as News Director at KREM and a return to 7 News where he made a name for himself as mostly a features reporter, that yearning for the story led him to Florida International University.  
After a little over two years at FIU where he studied international relations, Keith came home. He returned to Channel 7 where he quickly re-established himself with a new, more assertive style. No longer the shy school boy, a 23-year-old Keith faced challenges with a man's mettle. He became a master at turning news into "stories", weaving tight and tidy narratives, looking always for the hottest news, protecting any scoop - ask his colleagues at Channel 5 about that.  But to those with whom he was not in direct competition, he was brotherly, mentoring and always helpful, almost to a fault.

With his friends, Keith was always laughing and loved a good, harmless tease; he was such a funny guy, with a completely off, random sense of humour. And, don't ask how much he loved a good shoosh....".

Keith would greet almost everyone with his disarming style, big-timing them. Whenever he met anyone familiar, he almost announced them, making the person's name sound like a brand name, I can hear him now: "Craig...!"
To speak of Keith personally is not so easy; it cannot be done summarily. Those who love and lived with him may never be able to reconcile the basic paradox of Keith--that the man who surpassed all in front of the camera shared so little about himself when the microphone was turned off. 

Imagine, a purveyor of stories and yet a guarder of his own....

When he did open up, we saw his sensitivity, his vulnerability and that he sought solace in our support.... these are, after all, the normal human frailties - just that when you're living most of your life on TV, the cuts can be a little close to the bone...

But, he rose above it every time and used it as fuel to make him that much more determined to succeed and exceed; Keith worked like he had something to prove; in the end, he was so relentless, he never gave us a choice, we all had to love him; Keith delivered: he was the most prolific, the most worthy and the most humble with a microphone and a camera..... 

Not much more needs to be said for Keith Swift, Channel 7 Star Reporter that he did not say for himself--every night, in our living rooms or online, from the flood ravaged south to the frontlines of civil unrest, from back a town, to Houston.   The awards will forever tell the story of Keith's love for journalism, his passion for unearthing and telling the story that hasn't been told....
Indeed, each of us is here today because each has at least one memory of Keith--one personal story not televised or broadcast nationwide - maybe a moment before an interview when he tilted his head in that slightly side-wards way - to say, "It's all-right; I feel you" - without having to say a word. And, after all, that's what it is, the human connection he made with those he interviewed and those who watched.
He did what he did; exceptionally. And that's all many of us will ever know about him. It's easy to canonize those we love in death, but we must remember, their humanity is what we shared and what in essence, we loved.  And that's what we found in Keith, his lack of pretense, his human-ness.

I end with a quote from William Penn, his poem, "Some Fruits of Solitude".

"And this is the Comfort of the Good,
that the Grave cannot hold them,
and that they live as soon as they die.
For Death is no more
than a turning of us over from time to eternity.
Death, then, being the way and condition of life,
we cannot love to live,
if we cannot bear to die.

They that love beyond the World, cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies."

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 April 2010 13:31