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An Extraordinary Life: Plainfield animator had a passion for helping others with his skills

Keith Folk owned home computers before many people had heard of them

A high point in Keith Folk’s life was meeting Bob Clampett Sr., an animator best known for his work with the animated series Looney Tunes.

Keith’s daughter Emily Anderson of Texas said her father, a Plainfield resident, might have met Clampett when he was studying character animation at Columbia College in Chicago.

Either way, Keith was thrilled.

“He got to meet him and get his autograph,” Emily said.

Folk, the former supervisor at the digital media studios at the Joliet Public Library, was devoted to his work and the library’s patrons.

Megan Millen, executive director at the Joliet Public Library, said Keith was instrumental in helping the library obtain some key grants that allowed for the purchase of equipment the library might never have had without them.

“He was excited about our patrons’ projects and helping them, especially business owners,” Megan said. “He liked to work with the owners of small businesses and startups to help get them going. We always appreciated his enthusiasm for his work and the patrons that he served. People really did like him. He always had a sunny disposition.”

Keith had also worked as a senior artist-computer aided visuals for AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1984 to 1988 a senior artist traffic manager for Genigraphics from 1988 to 1990 and a graphic designer, motion graphic designer, video editor and animator for Comcast Spotlight (formerly AT&T Broadband and Jones Intercable) from 1993 to 2008, according to his LinkedIn page.

Around the time Keith was working for Comcast Spotlight, some carcinoid tumors were found in his liver. Carcinoids are rare, slow-growing neuroendocrine tumors. So part of Keith’s liver along with some of the tumors were removed, Emily said.

“They could only remove as much of the liver as they felt comfortable would regenerate,” Emily said. “But the cancer was not completely removed. They had to leave some of it.”

Around the same time, Keith’s wife, Donatta Folk, began driving a bus for First Student of Crest Hill, Emily said

From 2012 to 2014, Keith attended Joliet Junior College to earn a certification in library technical assistance with a concentration in digital communications and media/multimedia, according to his LinkedIn page. During that time, Keith did an internship at the Joliet Public Library, where he was eventually hired, Emily said.

He was only 66 when he died May 31 from complications of the carcinoid tumors.

Self-taught artist

Emily said Keith’s love for animation began in childhood, when he used to place tracing paper over his comic books and sketch the images until he could reproduce them freehand.

“He was very big into computers, like when home computers became a thing back in the 1970s,” Emily said. “We had one of those first home computers – an Amiga computer – with one of those old school printers with the printer page holes – perforation – on the side. And we had AOL, the fastest internet anyone could have in the late 1990s. My dad was ahead of the time with technology. We always had a video camera and he was always recording home movies. And he was an amazing artist. He could sketch anything on your mind.”

Emily said Keith’s sources of inspiration included Clampett’s works, “old Disney books, the old controversial cartoons of the 1940s and ’50s,” Bugs Bunny, Disney’s ‘Snow White’ and various Warner Brothers cartoons.

“Dad was very big into old movies – Hitchcock, Orson Welles,” Emily said. “We grew up watching those things. He had tons of books on those. The filmmakers and the cinematography. The animation. Computer technology. If you could roll that into one, that was my dad.”

Family man and avid reader

Emily recalled how Keith always read to her and her younger sister, Audrey Folk of Plainfield.

She recalled the support Keith gave her when she started a master’s degree program within months of marrying her husband, John Anderson.

But reading was very important to Keith, Donatta said.

“He read and read and read,” Donatta said. “He wanted to know as much as he could about every thing he possible could. If someone had a question where he didn’t know the answer, which was rare, he’d read and read to find the answer. He wanted to be sure everyone around him had the correct information.”

Donatta said Keith also could be a “jokester,” talking very seriously when, in reality, he was being very playful.

“He was just a loving person,” Donatta said. “He was a sweet man. Life wasn’t always easy because of the struggle we went through, but we always trusted that it would be OK. He had such optimism for every situation, no matter how dark it looked.”

But no matter how much Keith loved animation, he loved his family, Donatta said.

So in the end, Keith’s legacy is not his works or his books.

“His legacy is his kids,” Donatta said.

“And his granddaughter [Lucy Anderson]”, Emily added.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.