In spring 2010, Noah Keller, 12, asked his dad a question that a parent never wants to consider.
"He asked me, 'Dad, will you write a book about me if I die?'" Joe Keller said. "I said he shouldn't worry about something like that, but he was persistent. He said, 'No, Dad, promise me you will if I do,' and I promised him."
A few months later, on June 10, Noah died when the sport-utility vehicle he was riding in rolled southeast of Malta as a family member was driving him and some friends to a camp.
As hard as it was to do, Joe Keller held true to his word and, in mid-September, printed the first copies of a children's book he wrote about Noah, "The Boy Who Faced His Biggest Fear to Save the People He Loved."
"I can't even hardly read it without tearing up, but I promised him I'd do it," he said.
One of five children in the Keller family, Noah was an athletic, friendly boy who was quick to smile and help out a friend, according to his father and the book he wrote.
The book — illustrated by Lisa Fine, a sixth-grade teacher at St. Francis Upper School — details Noah's life, from his birth to his hobbies and family life, from conversations he had about life and death to the crash that took his life.
Everybody in the SUV was wearing a seat belt, but Noah was still thrown from it during the crash while the others survived with minor or no injuries.
The book got its title from a time that Noah — who once told an uncle that he was afraid of dying — stood up to a bully who was picking on his friend. That child's father told Keller after the crash that, after hearing how Noah stepped in the way, he felt he died to protect loved ones.
"He said that Noah told God to take him, to not take his friends and family," Keller said.
Keller said the intent is to help youngsters deal with the loss of a loved one, which can be scary and difficult. A little faith and a belief in the afterlife can go a long way toward recovery, he said.
"I just want them to feel that dying maybe isn't the worst thing that can happen to someone you love," he said. "You work at it and work at it to go to heaven and then somebody dies and you're mad about it. But that's what you've been wanting to do for so long."
While he hopes it does help kids — Keller plans to give copies of it to foundations that help kids who've lost loved ones — it also helped him deal with the loss of his son.
"That wasn't the intent behind it, but that really helped," Keller said. "It helps when somebody reads it and says it could help somebody else."