Friends and family are hard-pressed to say what Dr. Amy Doran Keppel didn’t do well — whether it was her career as a physician, impressive résumé, signature peppercorn steak, prodigious skill at skiing, knitting and tae kwon do (though not at the same time), or the tireless mentoring of young women. There were her lemon bars, too.
But Kathy Frey, her friend of two decades, says Keppel’s ability to listen is what she will miss most. “She listened so carefully with her whole being, sometimes closing her eyes in concentration,” Frey recalled. “You knew that when she listened, and then gave you her opinion, it was an honest, objective appraisal, but in the kindest way.”
Keppel, 63, of Edina, died Jan. 7 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic and esophageal cancer.
Born in Plainfield, N.J., Keppel moved about the world with her family, and she was schooled in Germany and France. After settling in Minnesota, she graduated from Mound High School. Keppel then attended the American University in Paris for a year, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in zoology from the University of Minnesota. A doctorate followed in parasitology from the University of Nebraska, then medical school at the U, finishing in 1983.
While in medical school, she met her future husband of 33 years on a blind date. “We fell in love right away,” said Dr. David Schneider. “Besides being a beautiful person, she’s completely charming and very, very intelligent. She was the person I’d always been looking for. The word soulmate might be overused, but that’s really what we found in each other.”
Keppel completed her residency in family medicine at the former Bethesda Lutheran Hospital in St. Paul. The family moved to Charleston, S.C., where she worked at the Naval Hospital for five years, earning the rank of commander, and advancing to director of residency education for family medicine.
“Amy really wanted to help people,” her husband explained. “I think that’s why she became very interested in family medicine, caring for people of all ages. She had an unusual connection with people. She made them feel like they were the most important person in the world.”
In 1992, the family moved back to Minnesota, and Keppel concentrated on raising their two children for several years. She practiced family medicine with HealthPartners for five years — ultimately delivering more than 100 babies during her career. She spent her final years in family medicine at North Memorial Medical Center’s Minnetonka clinic.
Keppel’s hobbies were just as ambitious and far-ranging. She traveled the world over, and loved skiing, especially with friends at Deer Valley in Utah. When she took the kids to tae kwon do class, she later joined in, earning a second-degree black belt. Her culinary and baking skills were legendary, too, and she enjoyed kicking back with a cocktail at happy hour with friends.
“If you were lucky enough to dine at her table, you knew you’d be delighted,” said Frey, whose original eulogy for her friend was 39 pages long.
When Keppel was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, “she handled it with dignity, courage and grace,” Frey said. A few weeks before her death, Frey remembered her friend dressing up in a pretty black dress with impeccable jewelry — even nylons — for Christmas.
In addition to her husband, Keppel is survived by children Daniel Keppel and Lyra Schneider; a sister, San Obermeyer, a brother, Russell Keppel, and niece Kyla Keppel.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 4439 W. 50th St., Edina.