This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
BLANDING - Schoolchildren covered their hearts with their hands as a black hearse bearing Marine Lance Cpl. Quinn A. Keith rolled through town Wednesday, and American flags fluttered gently in the late summer breeze as this small southeastern Utah town paid tribute to a fallen son.
Keith and six other Marines, including Lance Cpl. Michael Allred of Hyde Park, died Sept. 6 when a suicide bomber attacked their convoy near the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Nearly everyone in Blanding, it seemed, came out to see him home.
Keith, 21, was remembered as the child who always smiled, as the youth who always dove into a lake from the highest cliff, and as a Marine with a tattoo of a victorious warrior on his arm.
His mother, Leslie Jones, thanked the community for its support and condolences. She had driven half the night in a convoy that brought her son's body from Salt Lake City, and she said she was trying to remain strong in her son's honor.
"He would want me to have a lot of strength today," Jones said. "I feel his presence. I am happy for him to be home where his heart always was."
The line for visitation at the San Juan Mortuary was so long that Keith's funeral was delayed for 45 minutes, and the service was moved from a small chapel north of town to a larger LDS stake house.
Among the mourners were local dignitaries, elected officials and representatives of the Navajo Nation including the vice president. Keith was Navajo - a member of the Towering House Clan, born into the Bitter Water Clan.
Brett and Zellene Allred, Michael Allred's parents, also attended.
As the funeral began, a representative of the U.S. Marine Corps presented Jones with Keith's Purple Heart, "for wounds received in battle."
A choir, singing in Navajo and English, performed a medley of "I Am a Child of God," "Jesus Was Once A Little Child," and a haunting rendition of "God Bless America" that brought tears to the eyes of many mourners, including one Marine.
Family members recalled a shy young man with a ready grin, loyal to his friends and always willing to help those in need. Gil Keith prayed that his nephew's spirit would live on in the thoughts and deeds of those who knew him.
"May we honor him by doing the things which are right and living the life that he sacrificed his life for," he said. "We ask that you remember his smile. That great big smile. And that we, likewise, will smile to our fellow man."
Keith's uncle Leo Jones remembered the boy who loved to hunt and always "lived life to the fullest."
On Keith's arm, he said, was a tattoo of a rifle-wielding warrior celebrating a victorious battle. "It takes a man of great courage to face an unknown enemy. He did not fear as we know it," Jones said. "That's how I shall always remember him - a warrior going to battle."
Clyde Keith, with whom Quinn Keith lived during his final years of high school, recalled "a very loving person" who was filled with enthusiasm and a competitive spirit. He described his nephew as a leader who always challenged his three brothers and his cousins to fulfill their potential.
Clyde Keith smiled as he recounted how, during the summer, the boys liked to dive off the tall cliffs surrounding a nearby lake. As they grew older, they dared one another to risk diving from steeper spots.
"Quinn was always the ringleader," he said. "[He] was the one who always seemed to go highest."
Blanding Mayor Toni Turk tearfully thanked the family for their son's sacrifice. And San Juan County Commissioner Lynn Stevens read letters of condolence from U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett and Gov. Olene Walker. Stevens, a retired Army general, choked back tears as he spoke.
At the Blanding Cemetery, Keith's cousin, Russell Pete, dedicated his grave with a prayer. A Marine honor guard fired a 21-gun salute. A bugler played "Taps" as Marines prepared the flag for presentation to Keith's mother, who sobbed as it was placed in her hands.
After Quinn Keith's casket was lowered, his mother paused, and reached toward her son's grave, her hand lingering in the empty space between them.