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Missing Our Friend Keith Haller

The late Keith Haller (right), with former U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes (center) and former state Del. Bill Bronrott. Flickr photo.

When friends and loved ones leave this Earth, you miss them in different ways and for different things.

Keith Haller, a co-founder of Maryland Matters, died two years ago, on Dec. 11, 2018, from prostate cancer, at the age of 70.

We sure could have used a political sage like Keith this year.

I’m not sure Keith would have been able to make any better sense of this turbulent, confusing and distressing year than anyone else. But I do know he would have had many trenchant observations.

Keith would have fretted about COVID-19’s devastation along with everybody else. He would have been flabbergasted by the Trump administration’s ineptitude – what appeared to be a purposeful ineptitude – dealing with the pandemic.

He would have been astonished at all the political norms that have been broken this year. And, though he was a man who spent much of his life connecting with and trying to influence the media, I can see him gesturing wildly, complaining bitterly and with wonder, over the harsh and fractured media landscape that exists today. Media outlets that refuse to tell the truth about incontrovertible election results would have distressed him to no end.

I don’t know who Keith would have supported initially in the Democratic presidential contest, but I think he would have admired many of the candidates. And I know he would have found Joe Biden’s improbable political comeback remarkable and noteworthy. He would also have been thrilled with the history-making election of Kamala Harris as vice president.

Most of all, in this most consequential, dangerous and dispiriting year, Keith would have found hope – more hope than many of us.

Keith would have marveled at the record voter turnout. He would have taken inspiration from the millions of Americans who marched in the streets for racial and economic justice. And even in the darkest of days, he would have insisted that something better was just around the corner.

Let’s hope that something better is around the corner for Keith’s family, because 2020 was especially hard on them: Earlier this year, Keith’s son, Michael Haller, died suddenly and unexpectedly at the impossibly young age of 24. Please say a prayer for Stacy Pagos Haller, Keith’s wife and Michael’s mom, and for everyone who loves the Haller and Pagos families.

Now, as we head into another consequential election cycle, in Maryland and nationally, it’s hard to fathom going through it without Keith.

I’ve written before about Keith’s many contributions to the birth of Maryland Matters. He was an idea man par excellence. His enthusiasm for this project was unmatched.

I’ve also written sometimes about Keith’s unrealistic goals and projections during the early days of our conversations. It was hard not to love him for them — even though at the time he made me want to scream.

But as we’ve moved further along, as Maryland Matters has steadily grown and improved, I see that Keith’s lofty aspirations weren’t so unreasonable after all. And many of the things we talked about endlessly are slowly coming to fruition.

So I’m once again pausing to remember my friend.

Maryland Matters is the product of the hard work of many, many people, and a testament to the support of our cherished readers and donors. Here’s hoping it also remains, forever and in no small way, a tribute to Keith Haller.

Click here to read Josh Kurtz’s article on Keith immediately after he died.

Click here to read an interview with Keith’s dear friend, former U.S. Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.), about Keith.

Click here to read an account of the celebration of Keith’s life in 2019.

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