Hoyt Keeton: Red Bay man inspires walking trail named in his honor

PROGRESS 2023: What’s In A Name

At the back of the Red Bay Fun Park, running along behind the Red Bay Farmer’s Market pavilion and the popular water park area, an assuming paved path follows the edge of a creekbed. Lined with trees and red park benches, passing by a few picnic tables, the trail provides a peaceful place for citizens of Red Bay and guests to get into nature and enjoy a little exercise.

The trail came about at the urging of Hoyt Keeton, for whom it is named.

Son Hal, whose family owns and operates the Big Star locations in both Red Bay and Russellville, well remembers the many walk his father enjoyed taking during his life. His sisters Lisa Davis and Kathy Hale do too.

“Tommy Nelson said Daddy had always asked about a walking trail,” Keeton explained. Nelson was mayor at the time, serving from 1996 until his death in 2005.

“Daddy loved walking. He’d take up with anybody who wanted to go walking,” Davis added.

“They got grant money and developed the walking trail,” Keeton continued, “and Mayor Nelson said it wouldn’t be right for it to be named anything else.”

Keeton said walking with a friend gave his father a captive audience. He loved to chat. Davis and Hale said he also had a focus on fitness.

“I went and walked with him up a lot around the high school,” Hale said. “He liked athletic stuff – football, softball, whatever.”

“He was always trying to be healthy,” Davis agreed. “He had it on his mind a lot.”

Hoyt Keeton was a Chevron gasoline driver in Red Bay, a job that carried him through retirement, starting in 1952. He also had convenience stores in the area. In 1989 he purchased the Big Star in Red Bay, and in 1992 he bought the one in Belmont, Miss. “His mother and dad were in the grocery business when he was kid,” Keeton explained. “They had Red Bay Grocery. It was in the days when they had live chickens, and they did more delivering groceries than they had people coming to the grocery store.”

The Keeton children said their father, who passed away in September 2007, would certainly be pleased Red Bay now has a walking trail for all to enjoy.

“I believe he’d be very humbled,” said Keeton. “He was just a humble person. He was a caring person – a loving person.”

“He loved everybody,” Hale agreed.

The elder Keeton predeceased his wife, Peggy Purner Keeton, who passed away in July 2021, and their children remember that although he enjoyed a good walk, their mother did not. Keeton said he remembers Davis trying to encourage their mother to be more active, saying, “You know Daddy would want you to get up and walk and exercise. And she looked at us and said, ‘Well, it did him a lot of good!’” It’s a memory they share with a chuckle, recalling that the older she got, the more blunt she was about it. “But I know she was thrilled they named it after Daddy,” Davis added.

Keeton’s children, who also include older brother William “Butch” Hoyt Keeton Jr., said they hope people remember their father for the way he loved people and how he treated them.

“When I was 32, I had breast cancer, and I lost my hair, and he went and got his hair shaved off,” Davis said. “That’s just the type of person he was,”

“He was the type of person who was always there for you,” Hal Keeton added, “through the good times and the bad times. He never turned his back on you.”

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