A lifelong resident of Oregon, Mardi Keltner was a contributor to several significant cave projects in the area over the past ten years. In April 1999 she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver cancer and died at home two months later.
Growing up in Portland. Mardi attended Madison High School, Reed College, Portland State University and the University of Oregon where she graduated with honors in the Computer Science department.
Mardi worked at various times as a jeweler, goat farmer, camp counselor and systems analyst. She also held jobs as a technical rigger for film production and worked as a recreational textile consultant at the Rain Shed in Corvallis.
An active mountaineer and cave explorer, she was a member of the Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit (CMRU) of the Benton County Sheriffs Department.
She traveled extensively, recently visiting Switzerland and Morocco. Over the past 20 years she participated in numerous alpine climbs and mountain rescue operations. In 1998 she organized a women's rafting expedition down the Grand Canyon.
In the Fall of 1989 Mardi contacted members of the Willamette Valley Grotto (WVG), seeking their help with a CMRU vertical practice at the McKenzie Pits. Bill Holmes, Scott Linn, Sam Loomis and Joe Hay met the group at Little Nash Crater for an unforgettable day of pit-bopping. Mardi's familiarity with the vents came in handy several years later when CMRU was called to search the caves for a missing person.
Nobody was found, but Mardi's solo descent of the treacherous McKenzie Pit #1, resulted in the retirement of several ropes and the near-retirement of Mardi herself. In the years that followed CMRU organized an annual cave crawl as part of its training program, visiting the Cascade spatter cone vents and caves near Mt. St. Helens and Trout Lake.
Following the 1989 joint CMRU/WVG exercise, cavers invited Mardi and CMRU member Jon Sears to a cave outing in the Mt. Adams area. At the time she fondly recalled Joe Hay singing opera while strolling down the cavemous halls of Dynamited Cave. Their visit to Deadhorse Cave eventually resulted in a grueling mapping project in the cave's notorious Masochist Maze. In 1990 and 1991, Mardi, Scott Linn, Larry King Cynthia Ream and a number of others spent a total of 29 caver/days surveying 4,623 feet of hideous bellycrawl, much of it in dead of winter.
In 1993, while visiting an unnamed Sheridan Mountain lava tube with Dennis Glasby and Bill Holmes, Mardi crawled over 100 feet down a difficult and unpromising side lead to find very large walking passage in what would eventually be known as Cody Borehole. At 4,214 feet it became the third longest lava tube in Oregon.
Mardi's caving experience proved invaluable again in 1998 when the Skamania County Sheriffs Department requested assistance in the search for Justin Matheson, thought to be lost in Deadhorse Cave. As one of the few people thoroughly familiar with Deadhorse and its mazes, Mardi guided a group from the North Country EMS Volcano Rescue Team.
Matheson was later found on the surface, but the Sheriff's Department search coordinators expressed their deep appreciation for her experience and participation.
Mardi is survived by her brother Chuck Mohler of Ithaca, NY, sister Ann Wederspahn of Geneva Switzerland, and husband Larry King. Her enthusiasm often seemed in contrast to her gentle and considerate nature. She is remembered by her many admirers as a warm and loving friend, and her loss is deeply felt. At the memorial service a friend put it simply, "She was the best of us..."
For the Underground Express, newsletter for Willamette Valley Grotto
Corvallis Mountain Rescue Unit Newsletter, June 1999
Mardi was involved in a lot of missions during her time in CMRU.
In addition, she began the CMRU web page that continues to be maintained in her memory.