Keith LaBudde

Keith LaBudde died at his Woodland Pond cottage in New Paltz, New York on March 16, 2019 at age 84.

Keith was raised in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1958 and earned an MBA from Harvard University in 1960. This led him into the corporate world in New York City, where he worked as a marketing consultant for consumer and industrial products—first with Lever Brothers, and then with Bristol-Myers.

Keith’s life took an unforeseen and profound turn in the mid-1960s, when he was driving to the New Paltz area from the city for the first time. As he neared the Wallkill Valley, he saw the vast swath of the Gunks cliffs in brilliant sunshine. He was blown away. “The rock faces were glowing,” as he later described the experience. Keith wasted no time in taking up rock climbing. In 1970, he moved to the area permanently and was hired by Ulster County Community College as chairman of the Department of Data Processing/Computer Science.

He quickly became involved in various local land preservation efforts. In those early years, preserving land in the Shawangunks was tough work: the adversaries were large and powerful, the land preservation ethic was less embedded than it is now, and money was scarce. Keith became an early founder, board member, and long-time president of Friends of the Shawangunks, tirelessly devoting himself to protecting the Shawangunk ridge and its adjacent areas. He also volunteered many decades of his energy and time to the Mohonk Preserve and was actively engaged with Open Space Institute. Throughout, he was viewed as a leader with passion and integrity.

Keith was predeceased by his brother, Kenneth, and his sister, Kathleen. He leaves behind his wife, Pril Smiley, and her extended family and his niece Patty Weihe, her husband John and their three children. Keith’s “being” will be sorely missed—his joy in living life to the fullest; his enthusiasm for rock climbing, hiking, X-C skiing, and firewood harvesting; the deep connections he felt with his close friends; and his unbridled and irreverent sense of humor.

There is no memorial service planned at this time. For those who may wish to make donations in memory of Keith, it is suggested they be sent to Friends of the Shawangunks, P.O. Box 270, Accord, N.Y., 12404; Mohonk Preserve, Inc., P.O. Box 715, New Paltz, N.Y., 12561; or Open Space Institute, Inc., 1350 Broadway, Suite 201, New York, N.Y., 10018.

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