GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Think your family get-togethers during the holidays are hectic? Think again – one West Michigan couple likely has you beat.
Since their marriage in May of 1948, Don and Shirley Keena have since built up a family of over 100 members between eleven of their own and additional grand, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren. As you can imagine, it hasn’t always been the easiest task, but the couple isn’t complaining.
“I wanted a big family,” said Don, “and we got one. At times it’s been trying, but it’s always turned out good.”
Don and Shirley both worked full time while raising their eleven, and say there’s really no big secret to successful child rearing. Love them, love each other, and the rest will follow.
“Oh it’s kind of fun,” said Shirley. “We’ve got the best kids in the world and we’ve just enjoyed them.”
“It’s been a joy, believe me,” Don added. “Our kids are our friends now. All our friends have died off - we’re the only ones left. Now we have our new friends and we have a good time with them.”
Number 100 was born only a few months ago, and the family is already preparing to add #101 to the mix. He or she is expected in May, the same month Don and Shirley will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary.
As much as the rest of the family has learned from Don and Shirley, the patriarch and matriarch say they’ve learned just as much in return. Not just about raising a good family, but about maintaining a successful marriage as well.
“You help each other out when you can,” said Don, “and the last 20 years I made up my mind that I was not going to go to bed without telling her I loved her.”
The two never tire of hearing people’s reactions to their unusual but remarkable number of family members.
“Sometimes you wonder if they believe you or not, because that is quite a few,” said Don. You’re kind of surprised when they tell you you’re going to have another one but, there’s room. Bring them in.”
After all this time, Don and Shirley know that kids grow up, and spouses get older. But what the two believe will never get old are the lessons learned through all the ups and downs.
“Big families are good,” said Don. “They all get along and do a lot of good things together. And that’s what makes life worth living, really.”