Remembering Keith

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November 5, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch

As Bryn Mawr mourns its longtime UPS driver, one neighborhood resident is producing a documentary to honor his life. 

Keith Basinski, age 50, died Sept. 27 in the Accent Signage shooting. 

“He was more than a UPS driver, he had a real presence,” said filmmaker Deacon Warner. 

Warner teaches youth video production at IFP Media Arts. He interviewed people about their memories of Basinski, who worked in Bryn Mawr for more than 20 years. More than 300 people attended his funeral, most of them grieving a man they encountered just five minutes at a time.

“It’s neat to listen to neighborhood residents’ different reflections — how many different ways you can impact somebody’s life,” Warner said.

A memorial to Basinski is still standing at the Bryn Mawr Market, 412 S. Cedar Lake Rd., overflowing with candles, flowers and cards. 

“We’re getting a ton of money in his memorial,” said staff member David Ozhigwan. “We have a jar here, and people keep putting in fives and 20s. [The total] must be in the thousands.”

Warner interviewed one resident who has acute arthritis and therefore frequently shops online. She said Basinski went above and beyond the call of duty. He noticed she had difficulty getting around, and offered to bring her packages inside. At Christmas time, he helped her hide a child’s present. He knew all the neighborhood pets, and carried treats for the dogs. 

One resident told Warner he never received a package, but he still knew Basinski — the driver always greeted him. 

“He had a big smile for everybody,” Warner said. 

Dena McDonald-Watschke, a Bryn Mawr resident of four years, said she felt a chill when she saw the UPS truck sitting in front of Accent Signage on Sept. 27. As an online shopper, she had gotten to know Basinski well. He was always smiling and inquisitive about her household news, regardless of severe weather or the hefty climb up the hill to her door. 

“One of the most beautiful things for me, is here is the most ordinary man,” she said. “If you told him last Thursday before the shooting that he would be killed, and there would be a funeral, and over 300 people would be there, with police escorts, he would have looked at you like you had come off of a strange drug trip. ... To have that many people show up who just simply met him along life’s path, for anyone in life who aspires to be someone, he is a prime example.”

Steve Handeland, warehouse lead at Hirshfield’s, 725 2nd Ave. N., said he spoke with Basinski about 20 minutes before he died. He had worked with Basinski twice a day, every day, for the past 23 years. Their sons were the same ages, and the co-workers’ birthdays were just a day apart. 

“The last thing he said was, ‘See you Monday,’” said Handeland, who had the following day off. 

As soon as he learned a UPS driver had died in the shooting, he immediately called Basinski. 

“It went straight to voicemail, and I started crying,” Handeland said. “All around, he was a great guy. After this happened, I realized that everybody thought so too.”

Filmmaker Warner, a former public school teacher in Minneapolis, works on youth film projects at eight different schools. Some of his other film clients include the University of Minnesota and the choral group VocalEssence. He is currently creating a documentary on the history of the co-op movement in the Twin Cities.

Warner decided to make a film about Basinski at the request of a neighborhood resident.

“I can’t say I knew him that well, but I knew who he was,” Warner said. “It’s really amazing to hear all of the different people, and hear all of the ways he was part of their life.” 

Staff at Accent Signage resumed work on Oct. 8. 

“Our attention is focused on two things,” staff wrote on their Facebook page. “Honoring the memories of our fallen co-workers and resuming operations as quickly and efficiently as possible.” 

Basinski, of Spring Lake Park, is survived by his wife, three children, a grandson, his parents and five siblings. He was born in Green Bay, Wis., and he worked at UPS for 29 years.

Warner plans to post the film on Vimeo.