LAKE COMO, NJ — For more than 40 years, Harvey Keyes has been known for giving his all to Lake Como.
He’s most notably known in this close-knit community for being a member of the South Belmar First Aid Company, serving as its captain numerous times during his volunteer service.
An avid fisherman, Keyes also has gained a following for refurbishing old fishing poles that he gives to youngsters, complete with tackle boxes. “It’s to keep them out of trouble,” quipped Keyes, who retired in 1998 from the Earle Naval Weapons Station, Colts Neck.
Now, the 75-year-old is battling advanced liver and colon cancer, as he enters his fourth month of chemotherapy — a regimens that is proving effective in fighting the disease.
“The doctor says he is doing great, so we don’t want to stop the treatments,” said Melinda Wendelstedt, his longtime companion.
Keyes admits that the treatment he receives in Freehold takes a toll on him. “After a treatment, I’m weak and take catnaps all day,” he said. “But I have no choice.”
His biggest health scare occurred the week before Christmas when his heart stopped due to a blood clot in his lungs. The Belmar First Aid Squad rushed him to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, where he was administered medication directly through his carotid artery.
“We lost him, but they were able to bring him back,” Wendelstedt said. “Since then, he has been doing fabulously with his cancer treatment.”
And because of that progress, Keyes’ doctor wants him to continue with the chemotherapy through June, she said.
However, his family has depleted their savings — prompting the launch on February 13 of a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds so that these treatments can continue.
“Harvey has spent his entire life giving to the people of South Belmar/Lake Como by serving tirelessly with the South Belmar First Aid Company well into his 70s,” reads the campaign’s message. “He would still be serving the residents of his town if he could, but now Harvey needs your help.”
As for Keyes, he is optimistic for the future as the days grow longer and the grass greener … and he grows stronger. “I hope to be fishing for trout in Spring Lake this spring.”