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Keith Dempster

A celebration of life for Keith W. Dempster, 80 of Lone Tree will be held 11am Saturday March 23, 2013 at the Peterseim Funeral Home in Kalona with Military Graveside Services at 1:30 in Chester Center Cemetery near Grinnell. A get together of potluck, storytelling and music will be held at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City following the services Saturday from 3-6pm. The family will hold a public viewing at the Peterseim Funeral Home Friday March 22, 2013 from 4-7pm.

Keith Dempster died quietly in his sleep Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Simpson Memorial Home in West Liberty following a short illness.

Keith Williard Dempster was born October 16, 1932 in Grinnell, Iowa the son of Keith G. and Frances Dempster. After graduating high school he attended Grinnell College before joing the United States Army where he served from 1952 – 1955. He spent the next several years touring and working in Euorpe. Keith returned to the states and toured the eastern seaboard before settling in Iowa City and marrying Jean.

He then opened The original Coffee Mill in 1962. After a fire The Mill moved to the Old Carvutos Restaurant on Burlington street where it remained until 1972 when he moved to the current location. Keith then owned and operated The Mill Restaurant for next 41 years offering a venue for hundreds of local artists to hone their craft.

He was united in marriage to Pam on July 4, 1989 and retired from The Mill in 2003.

Keith was a member of the Coralville VFW, and the American Legion. In 1972 Keith founded the Pure Stodge Touring Association and served as its President for many years, he was a Pioneer and lifetime member of BMWMOA and served the Board of Directors in many capacities. He was also staunch Supporter of the Iowa Friends of Old Time Music. He received the Harry Oster Award in 2002. He enjoyed traveling, riding motorcyles, good food and great music. Over the many decades Keith rode his motorcycle in every state, many Euoropean countries, Central and South America and Mexico. He even took a motorcycle riding tour in Spain and Portugal for his 75th Birthday.

Survivors include one daughter; Greer and husband Patrick Willcutt and daughter Katy of Richfield, MN, step daughter; Shawn and husband John Parks of Lone Tree, IA and their daughter Sarah Rowland of Temecula, CA as well as former wife and good friend Christina Fleckner of Isabella, MO and many many friends.

Preceding Keith in death were his parents: Keith and Frances, his sister; Rita and his wife Pam.

Memorials Contibutions may be sent to: Iowa Donor Network, the Salvation Army, Friends of Old Time Music, and the Simpson Memorial Home Building Fund.

To plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Keith Dempster, please visit our flower store.


Time flys like an arrow, fruit flies like bannanas

Ben Clark Jun 29 2013 12:00 AM

Our sincere sympathies sent for the loss of Keith.He will be fondly remembered by us for the rallies held at his farm and his attending all the National Rallies up to date.Will be missed. Leland & Slina Prothe

Leland & Slina Prothe Apr 1 2013 12:00 AM

My deepest sympathy during this time of loss.

Jordan Ryan Hansard Mar 31 2013 12:00 AM

I will long remember with fondness the many evenings spent in the Mill. Keith and I were good friends and he always made me feel welcome when I came into the Mill. I usually came with an assortment of friends and a table was always ready for me. Keith had a heart as big as the outdoors and was always willing to assist his many friends. I shall miss him as all who knew him will. My prayers and thoughts are extended to his family. In Sympathy, Jerry Downey

Gerald R. Downey (Jerry) Mar 23 2013 12:00 AM

I only knew Keith over the years for the incredible efforts he put forward to put on the Pure Stodge BMW Rally, but I was always amazed at his commitment to see this event take place and his unbelievable contributions to make all of this happen.I am very sad to hear of his passing and wish to express my condolences.Sad that such a great guy is no longer with us.

Robert Mandel Mar 21 2013 12:00 AM

I only have one bone to pick with Keith Dempster. He was so good to work for, he spoiled me for working for anybody else.You young waitresses out there, can you imagine supporting yourself waiting table 40 hours a week 8 months a year, go traveling 4 months, return to Iowa City, and be re-hired? That's how it was back in the 60's with Keith at the Mill. And Leonard Curtis who posted the condolence about Keith washing graffiti off the restroom walls--if I see you at the viewing or funeral or at the Mill Saturday, I can tell you the funniest story about that. Keith, I bid you a fond adieu. Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith Mar 20 2013 12:00 AM

Keith will be remembered by many BMW friends and the wonderful rally site at his place. I was usually the first rider to arrive at the Iowa Rally because I loved it there, even the year of the tornado!! RIP Keith. Joyce (McCarron) Carlson

Joyce (McCarron) Carlson Mar 19 2013 12:00 AM

I will always have fond memories of sitting at the bar during breaks or after finishing a gig at the Mill, listening to Keith share one of his many adventures or general thoughts on, well, just about anything. Keith was the Mill, in my mind, but I know that he was much more than that to so many. Thanks to Keith for all the years of creating and supporting a great scene for players and audiences, as well. You leave us with a living legacy that we will always appreciate very much. Rest in peace, Keith.

Thomas "TJ" Gates Mar 19 2013 12:00 AM

Keith was a warm and colorful personality who helped define the Iowa City experience for me during the 1970's and 1980's.Keith hired me as a Mill pizza- kitchen cook in the fall of 1977.In the ensuing years, and not just under Keith's tutelage, I would learn more about human appetites than I thought possible in one venue. Keith's contributed much of value to River City life in those days, but the thing I value and cherish the most, is the way of life he made possible for young artists and outsiders.He did this through the Mill community, a company of musicians, poets, playwrights, artists, and you name it who used the Mill to nourish and find their voices, and their places on this earth. I wish someone had secretly recorded the inspired graffiti which Keith demanded be washed from the walls of the employee restroom.Some of the cleverest and most insightful literary tags could be found there, for a few hours or days only. Once, after having moved back to central Iowa, I asked Keith for a job and a loan so I could move.Without hesitating, he pulled a $100 bill out of his wallet and grinned, "That'll come out of your first paycheck". Keith was a big man with a big heart.Auf wiederseh'n, Keith.

Leonard Curtis Mar 18 2013 12:00 AM

Many knew Keith as a rider and a friend.If I could only achieve half of that in my life it was well worth it.

Mike Chapman Mar 18 2013 12:00 AM

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