It was hard to be around Jack Keener without getting excited about nature and the outdoors.
"Jack was so outgoing, very engaging and wanted more than anything to get people out to experience the natural world," said Chris Marsh, executive director of the Lowcountry Institute. "He was strongly committed to the protection of our natural resources ... and was a great steward of the environment."
Friends and colleagues say the Lowcountry lost one of its great naturalists at about 9:15 a.m. Monday, when a dump truck collided with Keener's 1985 Jeep near the intersection of Trask Parkway and Shanklin Road.
Keener was 65.
He was pronounced dead at the scene and his body transported to the Medical University of South Carolina for an autopsy, according to Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen.Keener's wife, Cindy, a former principal at Coosa Elementary School, was a passenger in the Jeep and was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. An update on her condition was not immediately available Monday afternoon.
No other injuries were reported.
The wreck is being investigated by the S.C. Highway Patrol, according to Cpl. Bob Beres.
Eastbound traffic on Trask Parkway was rerouted onto Parker and Bay Pines roads for nearly an hour as emergency workers cleared the scene, Burton Deputy Fire Chief Tom Webb said.
For years, Keener worked as the Clemson University extension agent for Beaufort County and, in 1999, helped jump-start the state's master naturalist program.
The program trains and educates volunteers in natural history and other aspects of environmental science to help them protect local ecosystems, according to Marsh, who worked closely with Keener to start the program.
"He was such a well-connected guy who seemed to know absolutely everyone, so we knew the program would get off to a strong start," Marsh said. "Jack retired in 2002, and we took the lead in 2003. It's still going now, and it's all built on the foundation that Jack started."
Keener also was involved with the Beaufort County Farm Bureau and the Rotary Club of Beaufort, of which he was a member for more than 20 years. He was the Rotary club's president in 1999.
A helicopter pilot who served in the Vietnam War, Keener loved to fly and frequented "Frogmore International," a nickname given to the Beaufort County Airport on Lady's Island, longtime friend Claude Dinkins said.
Dinkins saw him at the airport Saturday working on his plane.
"He was a great pilot," Dinkins said. "I went hunting with him a few times in Texas, and he was just a wonderful, wonderful guy to be around. He will be missed."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Monday night.