Joe Keehner

The Free Press Second Saturday Salon will present an Earth Day Birthday celebration for WGRN 91.9 FM community radio on Saturday, April 13, 2024. WGRN will honor it’s “Volunteer of the Year,” Board member Joe Keehner. And “Producer of the Year,” Felice Thomas.

The doors will open at 5:30 with light refreshments, socializing and an awards ceremony. It is followed by a 7:00 PM concert by folk musician Tom Neilson.

The celebration and award event will be held in Beach Hall at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 93 West Weisheimer Rd. in Columbus. For information, contact:

WGRN is pleased to present the “Volunteer of the Year” award to Joe Keehner, a continuing and one the first members of the Central Ohio Green Education Fund (COGEF) that operates the WGRN community radio station.

Born in Baltimore, in the middle of the 20th century, on the day after the undeclared war in Korea started, Joe Keehner Jr. grew up in Maryland, making music and tending gardens. He also grew up not fitting the mold of expected American boyhood behavior, which inclined him towards embracing eccentricity, appreciating diversity, and striving to develop empathy.

Joe became an ecological activist when he became a Baha’I during his sophomore year at the University of New Mexico. That spring he participated in the first Earth Day and saw an explosion of anti-war demonstrations.

After getting his Bachelor of Fine Arts, he got drafted into the Army as a noncombatant conscientious objector, was trained as a medic since he refused to carry a gun, and ended up at Ft Bragg, North Carolina, singing in a chorus called the Muleteers. After that he studied Environmental Planning, for a year, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, before going to graduate school, at the University of Illinois, where his eco-activism started to center around race unity.

He completed class work for a Masters in Landscape Architecture, but instead of finishing a thesis, he ended up becoming a stay-home father in Columbus. When he came to Ohio, in the Orwellian year of 1984, his eco-activism first centered around peace. He got involved in helping to plan, and also perform at, the Ohio State Fair Peace Pavilion. His interests then turned to sustainable development after the release of the United Nation’s “Brundtland” Report on Environment and Development under the title “Our Common Future.” He and some other folks in Columbus started to network around the issues and ideas raised in that report, and then decided to organize the 1990 Earth Day Birthday, which took place at Whetstone Park.  After that Earth Day, the networking continued as a monthly Environmental Roundtable, and then while Joe was having to deal with getting divorced, some of those folks in the network started Simply Living.

Soon after its inception, Joe became involved with The Central Ohio Green Education Fund by helping to plan the 1994 Earth Day Celebration at the Franklin Park Conservatory.  He got involved again in 1999, as one of the founding members of the Citizens Grassroots Congress (CGC), which became the primary project of COGEF for over 10 years. He eventually joined the Board of Trustees, and then when COGEF’s Board was down to two members, Gregory Gross and Joe, and COGEF was in danger of closing down, he helped to keep it alive by convincing the CGC Steering Committee to become members of the COGEF Board. In addition, Joe continues to represent COGEF with Community Shares of Mid Ohio.

Now he’s a grandfather, giving him an added incentive to work for the betterment of the world. His eco-activism has expanded to include community gardens and local food issues, along with being a trustee for Four Seasons City Farm, and he is still writing songs and making gardens that he calls artscapes, while he keeps alive the hope to see something that looks like world peace before he dances out of his body into the other worlds of God