Home Ace Issues Semper Fi: Saying Goodbye to Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley

Semper Fi: Saying Goodbye to Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley

Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley, has died.

SEMPER FI: Saying Goodbye to Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley


Always faithful. That is a phrase that every University of Kentucky basketball
player, manager, coach and fan would use in connection with BillKeightley, the equipment manager for the Wildcats for 48 seasons, who passed away at 7:45 on Monday night. He died in Cincinnati from internal bleeding after a fall at Reds game on opening day.

Keightley was rushed to University of Cincinnati Hospital, where doctors in the trauma unit worked unsuccessfully to stop the bleeding caused from an undiagnosed tumor.

His death has shocked the millions of Wildcat fans who loved him and whom
he loved. Joe B. Hall and Billy Gillispie, two of the six coaches Mr. Keightley faithfully served,
supported, and encouraged speak of “Mr. Wildcat” in terms we reserve for those who
touch our lives in ways we can’t always define, but who have affected us in ways
that are profound, significant and long lasting. Gillispie said that Keightley was so genuine
and caring about others, that he made everyone feel as if he were their best friend.
Goose Givens said there were times he might not have made it without Keightley’s
words of “encouragement and support.”

UK retired a jersey for Keightley in 1997 (he and Cawood Ledford are the only two non-coach/non players to be memorialized that way), and Gillispie suggested at Tuesday’s news conference that additional honors will be planned once the appropriate people have had a
chance to mourn.
B i l l Keightley was a graduate of K a v a n a u g h High School in Lawrenceburg, a retired postal carrier and a World War II veteran of the Marine Corps, which comes as no surprise.
He was always faithful, ever true, never doubting, but also kind, thoughtful, and smiling.

That’s what I choose to remember. Over my many years as a UK fan, I always noticed
that Keightley never had a bad word to say about anyone, and his self-deprecating
humor brought smiles to the faces of many a player, coach, and manager during his
decades of service to the University. The UK basketball games just will never be the same without him. Mr. Wildcat, we miss you already! ■

A public memorial service for Bill Keightley will be held at Rupp Arena, Thursday, April 3.
The public viewing will be from 10am to 4pm, with the line closing at 3pm to prepare for the
memorial service. The public memorial service will be 6pm to 8pm at Rupp Arena. General public
seating begins at 5pm; parking in the High Street lot is free.

Memorial donations may be made to:
The Bill Keightley “Mr. Wildcat” Basketball Managers Scholarship Fund
UK Office of Development
100 Sturgill Development Building
Lexington KY 40506-0015

UK’s Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral
History is making 40 hours of interviews with
Keightley available.