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Keeper of the beat leaves us…Niven Keymer, aka “Gringo Star”

Gringo Star

Gringo Star

Keeper of the beat leaves us…Niven Keymer , aka “Gringo Star”, passed away on Oct. 30th in Quepos. Niven was a long time resident of our little paradise. He was also the “go to” drummer for almost every band in the area. Born in England in 1949 then moving with his family to Toronto where later he and his brother Geoff had their first band, The Manta Rays. Niven also lived in Key West and California but Quepos became home. 

He is survived by his bother Geoff of Nova Scotia and sisters Lesley and Sheryl from England. There was an outpouring of friendship and love from the community at a Celebration of Life held Nov 7th in Quepos at Dos Locos – one of his favorite “hangouts” and weekly gigs. Space limits us here to express all the kindness that was sent in Niven’s honor but here are a few quotes from the many stories shared that day: 

Niven was empowered to do his best to live his life with meaning, mindfulness and kindness. He was centered in truth and lived in peace. This is Deer medicine, and most certainly embodied Niven as I remember him. He chose to use the power of gentleness to touch the hearts and minds of those around him although he could be brutally honest and very funny.” Travel well old friend, and keep dancing to the rhythms of your own drums. You have served your friends and family well. Shannon Thunderbird, Coast Tsimshian First Nations Elder 

Sharing the joy

Sharing the joy

Niven was a lot of things to a lot of people – to me, from the sixth grade to the tenth, he was a stepfather. He lived with Letty and me during those years, and had to endure the worst of my adolescence. I wasn’t a terrible kid, but I was a teenage boy, and teenage boys go through a phase when they’re troglodytes. For months on end Niven worked on improving my Cro-Magnon table manners. And after a disastrous attempt of his to make Swedish Meatballs, he and I agreed it was time I did my share of the cooking. After he and Letty split up we remained friends, playing softball together in the summers. When I was about to leave for college, he and another friend took me out for a send-off.

This might sound mundane: table manners, Swedish Meatballs, softball. But over time the little things add up, making you who you are. Last year I wrote Niven a letter, and mentioned that I have a teenage boy of my own, who is receiving his second-generation table manner lessons. It was as close as I got to thanking him, but he deserved better. He deserved to know about all the little ways he showed me how to be a man, and how much I appreciated his enthusiasm, quirks, and good humor. I wished I’d been able to tell him thanks for that. And most of all, for being a good friend.  John Ochvatt, Portland, Oregon

During the quieter parts of our visits, Niven would read some Robert Ludlum, or catch a James Bond flick, or watch a Blue Jays game… or “how about those Dolphins”!?. He would always pitch in with dinner, often making his famous Frenched Green Beans. And late into the night, we would regale each other with our stories while sipping on cooking Cognac ..mixed with Pepsi!! –  because that’s all we had left to drink!  And inevitably – it seems our evenings were never complete until Niven donned his best DeNiro impression & asked: “are YOU talking to ME??”  These were special times – we were special friends …I love you Niven and I will miss you very much – and I am so grateful for all our memories. Lest we forget … Margaret Thompson [Demi Thompson was too overwhelmed to write]    Perth Ontario 

Tools of his trade

Tools of his trade

RIP Niven, we always enjoyed your company, spirit & music. Will remember the good times at Plinios and Dos Locos and miss them. But they will always be remembered.  Sabine from Plinio

Oh sweet Niven what you gave us all. Let’s ring out the snare drum and have us a Quepos ball!  XO from Laura Hubert, Toronto

Today I mourn the loss of another special man in my life.   One who came to me when I felt lost and sad.  He made me laugh again and cry, made my feet dance again with his drumming and my face smile.   He always knew the answers to Jeopardy, made the best shepherds pie and faithfully walked my beloved Gracie.   His emails made me feel like I was still in Quepos.  Niven was a special man and he will be greatly missed in  more ways than one.  Safe trip my drummer man, safe trip. Love always Ruthie. Ruth Bixler in Connecticut

Our heartfelt condolences to Niven’s friends and Family. We knew Niven for many years.  We found him kind and gentle.  We will always have fond memories of “Gringo Starr” playing his drums at Dos Locos.  When the set was on break, he would always come to our table, give me a warm hug, sit down  and welcome us back.  Then we’d have a nice conversation with him.  Who knew that our talk with him this October would be our last.  He will be truly missed.  Rochelle Zucker and Joe Eskow, Winnipeg Canada

“some say love, it is a river”… There’s a story that Suzuki Roshi told. He was the Zen master at the Zen Center here in San Francisco. He went to Yosemite and saw a big waterfall coming over a cliff. It’s one river at the top of the cliff, but as it falls, the river breaks up into all these individual droplets. And then it hits the bottom of the cliff, and it’s one river again.

We’re all one river ‘till we hit this cliff. That distance between the top of the cliff and the bottom of the cliff is our life. And all the individual little droplets think they really are individual little droplets until they hit the bottom, and then they’re gone. But that droplet doesn’t lose anything. It gains. It gains the rest of the river.

Our love to Niven and his people.  We believe he is now, again, one with the river.  Niven’s west coast extended family, via Letty

We have other great drummers in our midst but there was only one Niven. He made every effort to at least some of the time get his “Niven’s Musical Notes” into to Quepolandia by deadline – it was a running joke….but he often mentioned how lucky we were to live in an area so rich in live music. He called them “magical music moments” when other musicians, some known- some just passing thru, would sit in with the band creating a spontaneous outstanding jam…often in the middle of a Quepos afternoon…we were lucky to have this man with us. He was a kind and gentle soul….I will miss our occasional afternoon chats at the bar…he made me laugh often – he made me smile…….safe travels my friend – you will be missed……….P

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