Lillian Wu Keen, 75, formerly of Media, a graphic artist, art director, and successful businesswoman who at age 75 reinvented herself as a real estate agent, died Tuesday, Jan. 23, of cancer at Hope Hospice in Cape Coral, Fla.
Mrs. Keen and her husband, Gary D. Keen, lived for many years in a house on Crum Creek Road in Media. The home served as headquarters for her business, Lillian Wu Design Studio, and Direct Response Projects, a direct mail advertising business she and her husband ran for 20 years starting in 1996.
In 2015, the couple retired to Cape Coral. They filled the days with "retired-people" activities like bocce and pub trivia, said close family friend Joe Schneggenburger. But for Mrs. Keen, bocce did not replace business.
"Not feeling challenged enough, Lillian chose to end her 'retirement' after just nine months," Schneggenburger said. She and her husband passed the Florida Realtors' examination and began second careers as agents with Cape Realty Inc.
Not only did she find success as a buyer's agent, but she also was named "a top producer" several months ago, her husband said.
Mrs. Keen had defeated breast cancer in 2001 and 2013. But on Dec. 24, 2017, she was hospitalized in Florida with an unknown illness. Next came the diagnosis of an aggressive cancer. She fought hard, but died a month later, her family said.
"Through all the pain, she kept her witty humor, her giving nature, and her entrepreneurial spirit," Schneggenburger said. "For every doctor or specialist who came through, Lillian told them she'd be calling them when she got back on her feet, so she could help them find a new home or investment property."
Mrs. Keen's life spanned the globe. Born in Shanghai to Lily Chang Wu and Tse-wei Wu, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, Mrs. Keen, then 8, and her family narrowly escaped the Chinese Communist regime in 1950.
"Her father was going to be arrested and executed the following day," her husband said. "Lillian was handed through the window of a train, as they left. I think it defined her. She was strong and eager from that day on."
The family took up residence in Hong Kong, where she attended the Sacred Heart School. As a teenager, she excelled at playing piano and badminton, her family said.
At age 17, drawn by the presence of her three brothers who were studying at the University of Michigan, she moved to Ann Arbor. She graduated from a high school affiliated with the institution, then earned a bachelor of science degree in advertising design from the university, where she became an avid football fan.
In 1964, Mrs. Keen joined one of her brothers who was living in Philadelphia. Starting in 1970, she was a graphic designer for Colonial Penn Insurance Co. She rose to become art director for one of the firm's largest accounts — AARP Supplemental Health Insurance.
"If you saw Ed McMahon holding up a piece of mail in most of their TV ads, that was the one Lillian designed," her husband said.
She left Colonial Penn in 1983 and opened her own studio, where she provided graphic design services, as well as advertising and sales consultation. Among her clients were the Wall Street Journal, Lenox china, SnapCab (Warrington), and Green Machine (street sweepers for sidewalks).
Mrs. Keen met her husband through friends. They married in 1978, and had a daughter, Amanda Keen, a gifted gymnast. While running her own business and helping her husband with his, Mrs. Keen supported, but did not dominate, her daughter's gymnastic regimen.
"She was committed to driving me to and from practice five days a week and helping me find extra coaches and lessons that I would need," Amanda Keen said. The support continued until injury forced Amanda to quit the sport.
Mrs. Keen also was active with the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce and the Free Library of Media-Upper Providence. She backed various local Republican Party candidates.
"She was a beautiful person. I loved her dearly, and she will be greatly missed," her husband said.
Besides her husband and daughter, Mrs. Keen is survived by three brothers and two nephews. Another brother died earlier.
There will be a viewing from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, followed by services at 3 p.m. at Fuller Metz Funeral Services, 3740 Del Prado Blvd. S, Cape Coral, Fla. Burial will be private.