Meet the Keith Family

The Keith Family

More than $48,000 was raised to help Autism Speaks continue to promote solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of people with autism and their families.
Barbara Page and Charlie Keith

Barbara Page always thought her golden years would be spent enjoying quality time with her husband, Jon, and their five adult children and 10 grandchildren. The 77-year-old was getting used to taking a back seat to the younger generation, when a sudden tragedy changed her family’s life forever.

On May 18, 2020, Barbara’s daughter, Maggie Rowton Keith, a successful executive from Portland, Ore., suddenly passed away of natural causes at 51. She left behind her husband, Martin, and their 8-year-old son, Charlie, who is on the autism spectrum. When Barbara received the call that her daughter had died, she thought she was having a nightmare. She couldn’t fathom that her vibrant, healthy daughter, whom she had spoken to on the phone just hours earlier, was gone.

“It’s very hard to say the least. I try to stay strong, but I’m having a lot of difficulty moving forward. My heart just breaks for Maggie’s husband and my grandson. Martin is a stay-at-home dad, so he and Charlie have a very deep connection, but like most boys, he had a special bond with his mom as well. He’s such a sweet boy, very in touch with his feelings, and Maggie was always cuddling him and showering him with kisses. An 8-year-old child shouldn’t have to deal with losing his mother.”

Charlie Keith and his dad, Martin Keith

Charlie was born a micro preemie, weighing just a pound and a half, so he is no stranger to overcoming adversity. He wasn’t strong enough to leave the New York City hospital where he was born for six months and endured years of physical, occupational and feeding therapies. Then, in the summer before kindergarten, Charlie was diagnosed with autism. Most of his challenges arise in social settings, sensory sensitivities in large groups and some behavioral outbursts when he’s unable to express his feelings, but Barbara, or “Grandmother BeBe,” says Charlie continues to make steady progress.  

Charlie and Maggie Keith

“We are all so proud of how far he’s come. Since birth he’s been receiving services that support him in every area of his life and it’s been a Godsend. Every time I get to see Charlie, I see this beautiful growth in him. Since he was an infant, his dad has been reading to him every night before bed. Most recently it’s been the Harry Potter books, which he loves. He does very well in school and enjoys activities like skiing, climbing rock walls and playing with friends.”

After Maggie passed away, her family set up an online memorial fundraiser in her name, generously donating all proceeds to Autism Speaks. Hours after the page was created, the family was astonished to see donations pour in from close to 300 family members, friends and colleagues, many of whom shared heartfelt messages and touching tributes along with their gifts.

More than $48,000 was raised to help Autism Speaks continue to promote solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of people with autism and their families. That generous gift was parlayed into a match offer that will help to raise even more crucial funds to support families in need of resources and support.

All of us at Autism Speaks send our sincerest condolences to Maggie’s family and friends. We are deeply honored that we were chosen to receive such a generous gift in her name.

The story shared above represents the experience, views and perspectives of the individual(s) highlighted. We aim to share stories across the spectrum and throughout the life span, but the information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.