As a teenager, Keith Everett excelled in football and basketball and went by the nickname “Country” because of his broad build and Southern accent.
At Omaha Technical High School, his basketball coach was Gene Haynes, now principal at North High.
Haynes recalled Everett as a dedicated student who had a good group of friends.
“He was a young man who was very well-liked by his peers and also staff,” he said. “He was a very respectable young man. You never had to worry about him.”
A childhood friend, Terrence Mackey, said Everett was a soft-spoken loner who didn't deserve to “go to work and not return home.”
Everett, 53, died Monday on the job in an industrial accident at the International Nutrition plant in Omaha.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident, which also killed David Ball, 47, and hospitalized 10 other workers.
Childhood friends said Everett grew up in North Carolina and moved to Omaha when he was 11 or 12. He went to Nathan Hale Middle School, where he was part of a leadership group.
Everett was recognizable for his deep voice and hearty laugh, said Catherine Nared.
“I can just still hear his voice in my head,'' said another friend, Robbie Spivey. “When he spoke, you just felt protected.”
He was a tough football player, Mackey recalled.
“He probably hit me the hardest I've ever been hit in football,” he said, laughing. “He got a good shot on me.”
Everett was elected homecoming king at Tech, where he graduated in 1979. He studied for one year at Peru State College and also took classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the 1980s.
His aunt, Brenda Pratt, said Everett was the only child of his mother, Betty Everett, who lives in a nursing home in Rockingham, N.C.
Little else is known about Everett's adult life.
Spivey said she last saw him about a year and a half ago. The two were downtown, and Everett said he was looking for a job.
Everett had been a custodian at International Nutrition since November 2012.
He never married and had one daughter, who friends said died as a baby.
Survivors include his mother and half-siblings Harold Tillman, Palishia Robinson and Wanda Swinnie, all of Rockingham.
Pratt said funeral arrangements are pending in North Carolina.