Keith Alan Sprouse

Published 2:06 pm Thursday, October 26, 2017

Keith Alan Sprouse died from complications of HPV-related head and neck cancer on October 21, 2017. Born December 19, 1965, in Peoria, IL, the son of Linda and Tom Sprouse, he was a talented teacher, photographer, and therapist, and a gift to all who knew him. He had a keen mind and a generous heart, fed by a great love for conversation, travel, bookstores, good food, good cigars, and Laphroig scotch whiskey.

As a teenager, he was a dedicated athlete, most notably a boxer and champion BMX racer. After high school, he joined the Marines, and became a Manual Morse Intercept Operator, was stationed in Spain, served on a submarine, travelled around the Mediterranean, ran with the bulls, and discovered fine food and drink. He then moved back to Illinois, where his fascination with stories, storytelling, and languages led him to complete an M.A. in French language and literature from Illinois State University. He went on to the University of Virginia to pursue a Ph.D., and then spent 12 years as in instructor in French and Spanish at Hampden-Sydney College, teaching literature, rhetoric, languages, and cultural studies, and published several papers on language and notions of identity in post-colonial literature.

He once wrote “it seems as though teaching will always be part of my life, regardless of where my path takes me,” and he indeed had a remarkable ability to connect with people and offer them compassion and empathy. After two decades in academia, his concern for students who were facing issues outside the classroom led him to the study of psychology and counseling. He underwent training to become a therapist, completing the Community and College Counseling master’s program at Longwood University. He worked as an Emergency Services Therapist at the Crossroads Community Service Board in Farmville, VA, then as an Adult Outpatient Clinician at the Valley Community Service Board in Staunton, VA, and Region Ten Community Service Board in Charlottesville, VA. In 2015, he became the Charlottesville-Albemarle Family Treatment Court Coordinator, working to protect the next generation by offering treatment and a fresh start to parents struggling with addiction. He strove to help his clients gain insight into their own stories and take charge of rewriting them as a way of dealing with their mental health and substance abuse issues.

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He brought that same passion for storytelling and community to his long-term affection for and delight in photography, creating visual narratives in collaboration with his subjects and sharing those stories in a wide variety of contexts. Over time, what had been a hobby became more serious (Keith rarely did anything by half-measures), and he became a documentary photographer, finding endless fascination in ordinary people and things. In 2012, he began his CVille People Project, an on-line blog that chronicled people he met on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall through headshots and a brief interview. That project led to “A View Inside,” documenting stories of individuals with serious mental illness, and “The Art of Hair,” which explored hair stylists and barbers in the heart of Charlottesville. In 2013, he began “Grace Under Pressure,” a long-running collaboration with the Charlottesville Ballet that highlighted the discipline and pursuit of perfection at a small professional ballet company. He particularly loved working with the dancers, and documenting their dedication and joy in their art.

He is survived by his brothers Kevin Sprouse and Craig Sprouse, and his parents, Tom and Linda Sprouse. He also leaves a beloved and treasured wife, Sarah Wells. He will be deeply and profoundly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Charlottesville Ballet.