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Linda Keel

08/31/1945 - 04/07/2024

Linda Keel, 78, of Mesa, Arizona, passed away on April 7, 2024, after a brief illness. She was born on August 31, 1945, in Buffalo, New York, to Dan and Ruth (Fornoff) Keel.

Linda attended the University of Arizona and Buffalo University for her undergraduate degree. She was one of the first women accepted into graduate school at Boston University, where she earned a master’s degree in special education.

Linda began her professional career at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, MA, helping previously sighted people develop mobility and life skills.

In the late 70s, Linda moved to Arizona and served as director for the Central Arizona Children’s Education Center, an organization dedicated to children with developmental disabilities. At the same time, she worked tirelessly to help get the federal IDEA Entitlement Grant adopted in Arizona, which provided free public education for children with disabilities.

A bout with thyroid cancer left Linda unable to have children of her own. As a single woman in the early 80s, she was not able to pursue adoption in the United States. So, in 1982, in true trailblazer fashion, Linda proudly adopted infant daughter Sarah Sujani Keel from India.

In 1995, Linda took a pay cut to transition into a new role as a resource teacher for the Mesa Public School District, where she devoted the next 17 years to working with children with severe learning disabilities.

Linda retired in 2012, and enjoyed reading, gardening, and cooking in her free time. She was a lifelong animal lover who would do anything to help a furry friend, including once being hit by a car as a child while trying to catch a runaway cat.

Over the years, Linda rescued many animals and had a special place in her heart for her feline and canine babies Wally, Annie, Justin, Julia and Skippy.

Throughout her life, Linda was an advocate for women’s rights, gay rights, equitable education and animal welfare. She is remembered by peers as an amazing teacher who cared deeply for her students. Friends recall Linda as being direct and kind, having a tough exterior, and as a loyal friend who “always had your back.”

Linda was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by daughter Sarah, as well as many friends and colleagues.

The family thanks Montecito Post-Acute Care and Rehabilitation and Hospice of the Valley for their compassion, dignity and care of Linda, and Bunker Family Funerals and Cremation for their support, kindness and outreach during these difficult times.


  • Joann Peterson

    Every cause Linda adopted made the world a better place. Animal advocacy of ALL types, from wild horses, to lab rats, and from air quality to all kinds of recycling, she was determined to do her part. The perfect memorial anyone can manage would be to take up just one of her causes and carry on.

  • Jane Crawford

    I am so very sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. Heartfelt and deepest sympathy to you and family at this sad time.


  • Susan "Deenie" Traylor

    Dear Sarah,
    Such a lovely obituary you wrote of your mom, my dear friend of 44 years, Linda. I will miss her and her unique style of humor; she would always make me laugh without intending to do so. She was always kind and supportive of me and my husband, Eddie, as we both worked with her at CEC. Know that my heart grieves with you.

  • Carol McCullough Santos

    As a childhood friend of Linda’s I have memories of school, church and adolescence shared with her. Our visit in 2019 was much too short but I am glad we had a chance to catch up. Her life story does not surprise me. I am glad she was my friend.

  • Leilani Nissen

    I remember when I first met Linda at O’Connor Elementary. Her outer toughness and matter-of-fact kind of way scared me! Then I worked with her and a few of her students and really understood who she was. I have said this many times before and I’ll say this again: Linda was the best special education teacher I have ever met and worked with. Her super powerful ability to plan and organize each of her students’ IEPs, as well as being effective with each of her students, made her a real-life super hero. She will always be remembered in my heart. Sending Sarah and extended family condolences, prayers and hugs.

  • Dear Sarah,
    I am so very sorry for the loss of your mother. Linda was one of those extra-special people that I was fortunate enough to learn from when I worked as a substitute at O’Connor Elementary. She became a friend. I’ll always fondly remember the time we ran into one another at Chihuly in the Garden years ago. That was a lovely day! Keeping you and your Mom in my thoughts and prayers.

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