By Heidi Simmons
Some valley residents may not be familiar with the names Barbara and Jerry Keller or know them personally, but if you live in the Coachella Valley it is very likely you have been affected by their community philanthropy.
Between the two, they are involved with 30 plus different charities and non-profit organizations. Together they serve on four valley boards.
Jerry and Barbara are owners of Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs. Jerry serves on the board of the Coachella Valley Repertory Theater and the Israel Cancer Research Fund. He has been in the publishing business for 60 years and the restaurant business for 14.
Barbara is Chairperson for Desert AIDS Project. She serves as Vice Chair for the Palm Springs Art Museum. They have lived in the Coachella Valley for 30 years.
Barbara and Jerry have been married for 34 years. They have four children and seven grandchildren ages 10 to 19.
Here is some insight on how this charismatic couple stays happy and in love.
What do you most remember about each other when you first met?
Barbara Keller: Jerry was adorable in his tennis clothes.
Jerry Keller: I remember Barbara was adorable in her red bikini.
Barbara Keller: We were at a recreational area in our hometown, Great Neck, New York.
How long did you date?
Barbara Keller: About five months.
What do you most admire about each other?
Barbara Keller: I admire those things which I don’t always see in myself: Like his ability to go with the flow. He always has a smile. He makes lemonade out of lemons time after time.
Jerry Keller: Barbara constantly amazes me with how capable, caring and brilliant she is to work with so many different people and organizations and help them all be so successful. She brings her wealth of information to each one of them in the nicest, smartest, absolutely fantastic way. She has a tremendous compassion for people and is extremely considerate. She is a terrific, upbeat person.
What is your favorite thing about being married?
Barbara Keller: Waking up next to my husband just makes me smile.
Jerry Keller: Being able to spend my life with somebody so spectacular, so much fun and so interesting and so challenging. She does her best to keep me on the straight and narrow with what I say and do and how I act – and even how I drive!
What is the secret to your successful marriage?
Barbara Keller: You really have to be lucky to find the person that fits with you. It’s different for everyone.
Jerry Keller: You have to be able to adapt and change to different ages, lifestyles, happenings, problems, pleasures, friends passing. Lately, we’ve had a lot of that happening and it can be a downer. But you have to accept life’s vicissitudes and by having someone so terrific with you, it makes life a lot easier.
What do you do to keep the love alive?
Barbara Keller: It’s not difficult.
Jerry Keller: It’s easy because we do spend quite a bit of time together, although Barbara is out doing her things and I’m out doing mine. We always find time together for dinner or late at night. I have so much respect and love for her it’s just always a lot of fun — usually.
What advice do you give your children and young couples about love?
Barbara Keller: We rarely give advice unless it’s extremely important.
Jerry Keller: If somebody asks us for information or help or how they can do something better – we’ll tell them. But Barbara’s right. We try not to interfere with our children or grand children too much.
Barbara Keller: We are here for them. They know we are here for them. But we don’t like to give advice unless it’s asked for.
Jerry Keller: I know I still make mistakes. I’ve been around for nearly 80 years and in business for more than 60 and I’m still making mistakes, so I’m very careful about giving advice. We try to do it in the nicest of ways. There’s love between us, and the love of our family. We have a wonderful group of interesting and challenging friends. This is a magical place. There are so many good people to be with. We are lucky to be able to share so much love with so many.
What’s your favorite thing to do together to relax?
Jerry Keller: I would tell you, but I’d blush.
Barbara Keller: We talk about that sometimes because we don’t get to relax as much as we’d like to. But we are working on that. There were days when we could just sit next to each other and read a book and we would be perfectly happy. We plan on doing that again.
Jerry Keller: We used to travel. But we just need to make more time to spend together.
Jerry Keller: Yes, and have a nice dinner together.
Do you have any Valentine rituals?
Barbara Keller: No.
Jerry Keller: Well, I do. Late at night, I go out, buy a bunch of roses, cut the stems off and put them in water. After all these years, surprise presents just don’t work. We know each other so well the ritual is simple: We just appreciate everything we can as often as we can.
Barbara Keller: Everyday is Valentine’s Day for us.
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Grateful to have found each other, this is Barbara and Jerry’s second marriage. Their family is blended – two children are his and two are hers from previous marriages. But this couple has made sure to share their love equally with all who come into their sphere.
As busy as this power couple is they find and make time for family and friends. Barbara’s father, who is 103, lives nearby. It is one reason they like to stay close to home.
For Barbara and Jerry Keller, life is good and they appreciate every day and the precious time they have together. Their marriage is a partnership and a continuous love affair.