Edward Keller is Perham's Christmas Music Man
Do you hear what I hear?
On any given day in Perham between now and Christmas, if you listen, you'll hear it. It's in front of our downtown businesses and all over the streets of our neighborhoods. It's in the air, all around us. Everywhere.
It's Christmas music; good, old-fashioned Christmas music. The sound of it rises and falls around town all morning long, generating holiday spirit and smiles among the people of Perham in the same way that an ice cream truck's jingle brings excitement to kids in summertime.
The source of this holiday spirit is unexpected, and unexpectedly delightful: It comes from one lone man, the humble "hermit," as he calls himself, cheerful 90-year-old Edward Keller.
He's hooked a big speaker up to the back of his blue pickup truck, and every morning around Christmastime for the past two years, he's shuffled out of his country home in the woods near Perham with a simple plan—to eat some breakfast at a diner in town and then drive around until lunch, serenading the community with the holiday classics that he loves and remembers from his own childhood.
"I wish they had speakers through the town playing this music; I miss that," Keller said in an interview Monday. "They used to have that, years ago, when I was growing up. It was nice."
Keller began his one-man musical adventure last year, and got a lot of good feedback right from the beginning. This year, people started asking him about it right after Thanksgiving, so he got started even earlier than he originally planned.
He doesn't get paid or receive any other sort of financial compensation for his efforts. The songs he plays are some of his own personal favorites, compiled from multiple sources with help from his daughter. He does what he does simply because he likes doing it, he said, "and I like to see other people like it."
"I have so many people come out (of their businesses and homes) and thank me—they come out on the streets and wave, and that means quite a bit to me," he said, adding with a chuckle that, "I get a lot of cookies. I don't bake, so I get my desserts that way."
Keller has lived alone since the death of his wife, Dorothy, in 2005, and he said he needs to find plenty of things to do to keep himself busy or else he goes stir crazy.
"If I'm busy, I'm happy," he said.
He seems to have no trouble with that. Keller fishes, ice fishes and hunts, enjoys regular meals at Lakes Cafe and Mrs. B's, and crafts things like cedar chests, wagons and decorative steel wall hangings in his spare time. He has four living children who visit him regularly, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Now retired, he was a farmer in Tintah, Minn., for 75 years. Though he considers rural Perham his "home" now, he was born and raised in Tintah, and his farms are still in the family, so he continues to visit there occasionally. He bought some land and built a second home about 12 miles from Perham in 1983, and now lives there permanently.
He plans to continue his Christmas serenades in Perham, Dent and the surrounding areas through Dec. 23, and said he should be back again in future years, too.
This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.