Keith Grinstein - the fourth Second Avenue founder - passed unexpectedly on Sunday, Sept. 28, at age 48. We share some thoughts from friends and journalists here but it will always be difficult to share the full extent of Keith's contributions and memories he's left us with.
"A friend recalls a good guy of the dot-com generation of executives, a dynamo who knew the importance of living in the now."
"Keith Grinstein was such a ubiquitous Seattle business figure that it often seemed as if he knew everyone. "
"Grinstein was known as someone who had a heart for the community, serving on the board of philanthropic organizations and giving to progressive political causes."
Seattle Post Intelligencer
A tribute from Tom Hughes: Here's a tribute from one of Keith Grinstein's ongtime friends, Tom Hughes.
Keith collected friends unlike anyone this town has ever known. As Peter Jackson put it, he bridged the Worlds Fair and World Wide Web generations. He was equally embraced by the old-money establishment and politicians as well as the upstart tech generation.
Keith was truly a bigger than life persona, self-deprecating to a fault, and he filled a room with warmth, wit and a booming baritone voice. Anyone who has ever "done a meeting" with Keith at Madison Park Starbucks certainly experienced Keith's brilliant, quick-witted, multi-tasking capacity. He was always late, usually blew through the door talking on the phone, juggling text-messages before any of us knew what that was, carrying at least three newspapers (NY Times crossword finished in five minutes) and dressed in either a suit or gym shorts with no rhyme or reason as to whyâ€¦. If you were there to pitch him your idea it had better not be "stealth" as he was sure to ask you questions at three times the volume of anyone else in the entire store. You were guaranteed to be interrupted by at least three interesting people during your meeting. Surviving this onslaught and getting through was somehow a test, more process than any of us realized.
As one of Keith's long-time friends, who also happened to be single well into his 40's, I had the good fortune of being KDG's deep backup buddy-date. This was most fortunate for a couple of reasons. One, I'd get to sit courtside with him at the Sonics when it still mattered, two, I'd meet all sorts of interesting people - tech exec's, Bank CEO's, wireless geeks, athletes, Doctors, lawyers, Mayors, Senators, Don's of Seattle's Jewish Mafia, my next-door neighbors and of course, cheerleaders. In addition, there'd be somebody Keith knew thirty years ago and he always remembered their name, knew something clever about them and made everyone who knew him feel special. D's, R's, WASP's, Black or White, Keith really liked people and his energy was contagious.
As Peter Jackson said, Keith truly was from a different generation. If he had been a politician in the limelight instead of behind the scenes as he always was, he would certainly have been compared to Warren Magnuson and Scoop Jackson more than any of our current leaders. Few people, including some of his good friends, knew of even half the causes Keith championed. He didn't have kids and didn't really drink wine but there he was, chair of the Children's Hospital wine auction–but one of many examples of his commitment to community and people.
If I had to pick a theme for Keith's life, that's easy. Friends.
At Keith's 40th birthday Nick Hanauer, Mike Slade and I put together a video featuring an incredible cast of Seattle leaders in business, politics and culture who all went on camera proclaiming to be Keith's "best friend" without any doubts among them. It was an incredibly easy project to complete because everyone was anxious to be included. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of hard-driving community leaders for this silly spoof and of course the ultimate jokester, Keith, reveled in our tease.
Keith will finally miss a party, all his friends will be there as testament to a life lived well, albeit it far too short, and it will certainly never be as fun, interesting, or humorous without KDG.
A tribute from Colin Moseley: This comment was sent to me from another close friend of Keith Grinstein, Colin Moseley, and is derived from remarks he made at a memorial service Monday:
What can you say about someone who had so much to say, or about whom so much has already been said?
This has been a stunning seven days, the word "surreal" has taken on new meaning for me as I've drifted through the last week trying to make sense of Keith's death. The absence of his presence is palpable. Explanations escape me. I find my breath catching and stomach dropping at strange moments through the day when I see something that reminds me of him or check myself from shooting him a quick email about something that would have struck us both funny.
Keith was a friend to so many. He was a friend to those of us that are tough to be friends with - perhaps we were his special projects. But then we were all Keith's best friend.
Keith had the energy and curiosity of a child and was always game for something new. I took him fishing, hunting and grocery shopping - all apparently for the first time. His enthusiasm was infectious and it made him so much fun to be around.
Keith was smart and wise - not a common combination. He dispensed sage counsel with a joke and a grin. He loved an argument and talking about the world around us. What a week this last one would have been for conversations with Keith - Wall Street, DC, Palin & Biden - the live feed from channel KDG would have been something. SNL, Jon Stewart and the Daily show would have had nothing on him.
Keith was a generous soul. He was there at the drop of a hint to help a friend or deliver on an offhand commitment. Eight years ago, He took my son flying as a birthday gift - pictures of that event still adorn Will's nightstand even though he's now away at college. The list of similar long remembered kindnesses shared with the people in this room is too long to imagine.
At his core, Keith lived for three things: Claire, his family and his friends - well maybe Cosette, but they're together again. As gregarious and apparently self confident as he was, Keith was not entirely secure of himself - and who he was - until he met Claire. Their union caused both people to blossom and it has been a joy to be around - and a part of - that metamorphosis. I never knew him to be happier and more content than he was this past summer.
Reflecting on all these things brings me round to what to take away from this last week that could help move us into the next. Keith would have been aghast at the sorrow and grief that has filled the space he left in our hearts and lives. I can see him rushing now, Tommy Bahama flops flapping, a cell phone in one hand and a latte in the other, late for his own event to deliver an inappropriate joke and lift our spirits. So we must do what Keith cannot do for us. We must lift each other up. We can do that by remembering the best of him and keeping that light in our hearts to shine the way forward from here. That's easy to say and hard to do - but it is most certainly what Keith would have wanted.
A tribute from Gaylord Kellogg: Here's another heartfelt tribute, sent to me from Gaylord Kellogg:
"As I sat next to Keith's final resting place yesterday, trying to come to terms with the sudden departure of my dear friend, a small plane flew by in the distance darting among the clouds, in and out of the sunlight. It occurred to me that Keith moved through the sky as he moved through life.
"To fly with Keith was to experience all of the qualities that made him such a force in our lives. He loved the romance of flight and was passionate about the act of flying in and of itself. He reveled in the minutia: the details and technicalities of the equipment, the history of his aircraft but he was equally versed in the theory and evolution of flight. He found delight in arcane facts about aviation and had them at his fingertips, livening a discourse with anyone who cared to converse at any level. He was generous and loved to share, quick to offer a ride or any assistance in travel. His enthusiasm for flying was limitless and created joy in everyone who shared it with him and even in those who merely observed and wondered at his energy. He filled the cockpit with his booming voice, raucous laughter and his favorite music, entertaining even as he barreled along, one eye on the instruments to stay on course, cell phone at hand, providing a lucid running commentary on everything that came into view or had recently transpired in the world. Finally, one would touch back down, arriving on Keith's time, feeling transported, enriched, lucky to have been in his space.
"As I sat by the side of Keith's grave in that small cemetery on the north end of Queen Anne and watched the plane disappear to the north, I finally found some sense of relief after a week of unbelievable sorrow. Some of the gloom of the previous days had been dispelled with the return of the sun and the serenity of the place with a pretty view to the mountains in the distance. It was consoling to know that Keith was resting where he would have wanted to be, surrounded by members of the community he cherished, visited by his friends, with a view of the airspace he loved to occupy."