Kolja Keller

Obituary of Kolja Michael Keller

Kolja Michael Keller was born on September 16, 1985 in Hamburg, Germany. Growing up he enjoyed skiing holidays with his parents; fencing with the Waldörfer SV club, where his fencing career culminated in claiming 1st, 2nd, and 4th place at the Hamburg championships in the year 2000; and playing trombone, both in marching band and jazz band while an exchange student, and in a big band ensemble with the Waldörfer Gymnasium, his high school in Germany. However, his earliest and most persistent interest was philosophy, where he participated in formal philosophy groups beginning when he was 5. In the fall of 2001, Kolja traveled to Dunnellon, Florida as an exchange student. Always wanting to make the most of any experience, he participated in cross country, marching band, jazz band, competitive cheerleading, ecology club, and the academic team as extracurricular activities. Apart from after school activities and the usual teenage shenanigans with friends, he enjoyed spending time with his host mother Lila Cox and her sister Nellie Moore. While it would be easy to think of a teen boy’s misery of moving in with two senior women, the three of them quickly proved to be a well-matched family, often having discussions about the deep and complicated things of life late into the night. Those discussions proved to have immense impact on Kolja as he decided to become a follower of Jesus in December of 2001. Thereafter, he quickly became involved with the youth group at First Baptist Church of Dunnellon. It was during his exchange year in the U.S. that a deep and lasting friendship began with a girl named Robin Smith, who became his wife in 2005. After his exchange year, he returned to Germany to finish his Abitur at the Waldörfer Gymnasium and became a part of the youth group “The Wave” at the Kreuzkirche Ahrensburg. Kolja felt called into ministry and moved back to America in the fall of 2004 to attend Leavell College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. During his time there he received a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry with a minor in Biblical Studies and a Master of Divinity with a Specialization in Christian Apologetics. After completing degrees at NOBTS, he studied philosophy at the master’s level at Western Michigan University. He continued his studies at the University of Rochester where he received a Master of Arts in Philosophy and was a Ph.D. candidate at the time of his passing. When asked about his occupation he always joked that he was a professional student, working primarily as a graduate assistant and teacher during most of his academic career. He transferred his love of logic and problem solving into his job as an analyst at Sutherland Global Enterprises. Kolja was always heavily involved in volunteering at whatever church he attended, even pastoring Discovery Church in Rochester, New York from December 2018-November 2020. Tragically, Kolja passed away on March 29, 2023 from sepsis. He was 37. He leaves behind his wife Robin; his daughters: Lucienne (10), Vivienne (6), and Olivia (3); and his parents Hartmut and Elke Keller. Services will be held on Saturday, April 15, 2023 at True North Church, 420 North Winton Road, Rochester, NY 14610. Visitation begins at 1:00 pm, followed by a memorial service at 2:00 pm.
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