KEY WEST, Fla. – Originally from West Memphis, Arkansas, Keith White moved to Key West in the late 1980s. Friends and loved ones say he did his part to turn it into an even brighter paradise than it already was.
Friends said, White, 55, epitomized the Key West mantra: “One Human Family.” After working for years as a chef at the Casa Marina Key West Waldorf Astoria, he had more time to help struggling addicts.
“My dad is truly going to be missed,” said his daughter Ikema Williams, who said he died of COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
“He had an impact on a lot of people’s lives," she said. “They’ve been reaching out to me.”
After feeling ill for days at home, White died at the Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West. Commissioners announced Thursday evening he was the first reported COVID-19 fatality in Monroe County.
William Hall is among the recovering addicts who were grieving the loss on Friday.
“He no doubt saved my life,” Hall said. “I used to introduce him as my hero. I’m sure many other people feel the same."
Chris McMillan agrees. He said White loved his family and he collected boom boxes, and in a city where tourists come and go, he said, “He touched hundreds of people from around the world."
According to the Florida Department of Health, White suffered from an underlying health condition. He is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren. His daughter Ikema Williams has a message for people in South Florida:
“I just want everyone to know: Stay safe. Keep safe. Those precautions they’re telling us to do -- just take heed -- because it is real."