Jenneane Blair Tribute

Farewell First Lady

On Sunday morning July 6, a magnificent lady concluded her journey on earth. It was not however simply the passing of a remarkable woman, but in many ways was also emblematic of the fading vestiges of a distinctly different era.

By any and all measures, Jenneane Randle Blair was many things. The family she was born into, as the first child of Gene and Rachel Randle in September, 1934, in Clay Center, Kansas, were pioneers in the fledgling greyhound racing industry. Her father would go on to become a legendary owner and kennel operator at tracks from coast to coast. He also became one of the industry’s all time most successful and colorful personalities. His business savvy and fearlessness paid great dividends. He was greyhound racing’s version of golf’s Walter Hagen in that time.

The family was at times a traveling road show. New England and South Florida emerged as the sport’s Meccas and eventually for Jeannene end her siblings, Ned, Chad and Sharie, Miami became home base.

She grew into a lovely, intelligent, extraordinarily capable young woman and had started college at
The University of Miami but her ambitions were focused on pursuit of a traditional path and a burning desire, building the structure and providing the solid foundation for an ultimate American family. When dashing, young Carroll Blair turned his focus her way, the die was cast. He was the son of Merrill and Thelma Blair. The Blairs,
like her parents, had forged a tremendously successful path in the racing business through hard work, overcoming hardship and unyielding determination. Both of these first borns to classic American storied families, had the vision to foresee what their union would yield. It was what they both wanted to create, a continuation and further progression of the legacy their family’s had put in motion.
And what a legacy it was. Amazingly, two of the first three greyhounds inducted into the Hall of Fame were Randle’s Real Huntsman and Blair’s Flashy Sir. The Blair-Randle marriage was in fact a Greyhound Industry Royal Wedding. The young Prince and Princess of the sport’s first families, united.

While Carroll built a business, Jeannene constructed a family.
The dynamics of success were equally reliant on both critical aspects. The Blair family population quickly increased. Six new Blairs, all distinct and individual and accomplished.
Terie, smart, strong, fearless and resolute like her mother and understanding and accepting of her role as carrier of the torch as first born.
Randy, gifted with the best qualities of his descendants. Wisdom, humor, work ethic and a tremendous generosity of spirit.
Cathie, dutiful and determined. An achiever of all of her goals through unyielding effort fueled by her admiration for her parents and fear of her mother’s lofty expectations of her being unfulfilled.,
Rusty- Brilliant, effusive and talented. Athletically strong and gifted. Capable of anything he set his mind to.
Shauna- Beautiful, impetuous, at times even rebellious to maternal authority. But ingrained with the same core values and beliefs.
And Then… Holly. Every addition to the family made them stronger. Holly made therm all great and the tale of this family was transformed to Epic.

Holly was born with Down Syndrome and conventional wisdom was that she would be severely limited. Jenneane decided that conventional wisdom was wrong. She decided that Holly’s life would be everything it could possibly be and more. Her strength, resolve and wisdom rose to its loftiest heights. Enlisting her remarkable children to contribute their considerable collective talents and motivating array of achievements. The family turned adversity into soaring triumph. Holly was a superstar in the tradition of her Blair-Randle roots. A gold medal athlete in two different Olympics in two different sports. Holly, incredibly also became a High School graduate. She grew into a beloved symbol of what was possible. She became a celebrity inspiration to countless people. Jenneane set the bar high for all of them and they all excelled.

Great stories of triumph can plunge to tragedy and despair in the blink of an eye. And stunningly, so it was to be in this wondrous saga. Holly’s unexpected death at age 20, rocked the remarkable family’s world. The glue that held it all together was the family’s incredible Matriarch. The personal devastation of the loss of a child that had been her passionate driving force, had to be personally, absolutely devastating. In the face of horrific loss and grief, Jenneane, in a lifetime of incredible hours, may have authored her finest one. She had to rise up and call on her remarkable core core strength and resolve, she soldiered in. There was work to be done, tasks to be completed, priorities to emphasize. The backbone cannot waver or buckle. Now, great expansion was taking place. Grandchildren arrived with regularity. There were new generations to cultivate. Seventeen more to carry forth the
Tradition and legacy she had been so instrumental in building. She lived to see Grand children marry and the arrival of great grandchildren as the legacy she put in place rolls on.

A person of remarkable quality. Capable of doing anything she set her mind to, ultimately accomplished exactly what she wanted to achieve. The modern world in many ways has advanced but it has also taken steps back. Some might say looking back on Jenneane Randle Blair’s life that she was “Just” a wife and mother. What a gross understatement and minimizing assessment that would be. In fact, she was an architect, builder, CEO and Operations Director of the most majestic of structures, a great American family.

In a life where she was surrounded by Hall of Fame inductees, she was every bit as deserving for acknowledgement and enshrinement in her own special place of honor. Yes, we lost an someone extraordinary on that July morning. It was truly the passing of not just a wonderful woman, we all lost a “First Lady” of an Industry, a Family, a Tradition and an Era. Rest in peace Jenneane with the knowledge that your life’s work and mission was exemplary and a resounding success. She was truly in life, A first ballot, Hall of Famer.

Death Sentence

When the vision in my left eye failed in April, 2011, obviously it was a life altering situation. My right side had been stricken 22 months prior. I didn’t dwell on it, just tried to be resilient and realistic. However, I had no idea that what had happened to me was not merely a life changer, it was a life ender.

Yes I am still alive, in terms of still breathing, but my life is completely different. And death has occurred in the very real sense that I am no longer the same person. The loss of freedom, spontaneity and mobility is devastating. My existence is empty, solitary, joyless, unfulfilling and grows more hopeless by the day. I feel invalid, irrelevant, abandoned and foresaken. I don’t know who this person is, but it sure as Hell is not who I was. I feel I am at the peak of my a abilities in terms of intellect, talents, humor, generosity, empathy and capacity to give and receive love. However, I am exiled from all of those things. I desperately want support. To be surrounded by creative, interesting, energetic people. Sadly, that is not remotely the case and there really is no practical scenario in which it has any likelihood to materialize.

Yes, R.I.P Fun loving., always upbeat, constantly laughing, unfailingly optimistic, socially engaged Kip Keefer. Like the booster stage on a rocket, detachment and separation has been completed. I am now a solo, lonely entity listlessly floating in oblivion.

I am recording my feelings here on my blog. Safe to say, no one will read it anyway. If it’s a psychological, desperate cry for help, it’s a waste of time. No one can do anything to help me anyway. I didn’t dare put this on my Facebook page where people would actually read it. What sad irony, it would be upsetting to readers. Hell, it was upsetting for me to write, let alone, be existing this way. Oh well, I’ll step back and count my blessings. Always nice to look back on your life. It’s just that I thought I had more life to live. Clearly, I was mistaken.

Headliner Historic March Continues

When WW Headliner captured her 100th career win on April 1, the speculation shifted from that achievement to greyhound racing’s Holy Grail, the all time career wins mark. The seemingly unreachable 143 wins hung up by JR’S Ripper, was still a distant dream to say the least. But, having just turned three years old and with another year at her peak form ahead, the math, her Iron Hound consistency, uncanny track savvy and astounding win rate suggested it was certainly achievable.

Then, in her next start, for one of the only times in her career, she had serious first turn troubles. Her fifth place finish was a non productive result from her rarely seen at The Birmingham Race Course in more than a year and a half. Trainer Eric Griffin dropped a slip the next day, Headliner was on the shelf. Off for the first time with a sore shoulder. It would keep her on the sidelines for six long weeks. Six weeks of lost starts and valuable lost time.

She returned to action the second week of May and immediately recorded win #101. She has run 13 more times since that comeback and incredibly, she has not lost a race. That’s right, since returning, 14 starts,14 wins. T us almost as if she is intent on making up for the lost time. Career win total, 114. That is 13th all time. Her next win would tie Algoa Boss and the legendary Miss Whirl at 115.

As astounding as her performance was previously, this current tirade is something even more spectacular. Her current season line is an unthinkable, incredible 36-33-2-0. This is rarified air in our sport.

It is unfolding quickly, remarkably and sadly quietly. Birmingham is not a major track, in fact it is in the lower third of remaking tracks in terms if greyhound quality. That however in no way diminishes this unbelievable run. She faces off twice weekly with seven racing greyhound foes. They cove the 5/16 Mike course, approximately 550 yards in just over 30 secomds. She wins from all posts, in all weather. She goes to the front or comes from behind. She can hug the rail or swing wide. Nothing matters to her except outrunning the others. In 35 years in the business, I have rarely witnessed anything quite like it. In 2013, she made history by breaking the single season wins record with her 64 calendar year triumphs. Despite that incredible accomplishment, AGTOA voters did not deem her worthy of first team All American honors. And it’s certain that not much attention is being directed her way as she makes history with every victory. To date, her 114 wins have come in 155 starts. She has now won an astounding 102 of her last 127 starts. It is high time for people to take notice. WW Headliner, owned by Julia award, raced by Fine Line Kennel and trained by Eric Griffin, is the most statistically successful greyhound in the sport’s history.