Brothers!! Whether by blood or spirit, having a person that you proudly call “my brother” is one of the greatest gifts any person could ever receive. Being a brother means so much more than sharing the same blood type. It’s knowing no matter what you always got their back and they always got your’s especially when you need them most. It’s a privilege that transcends well above the bonds created trough friendship.
And, no one understood how truly special the gift of a Brotherhood was more than the Cheramie Brothers, Tyler and Korte, the founders of Keepa. To them brotherhood was a virtue, not a birth right, that governed their actions and ordered their passions. Their passions were people and the outdoors. Their actions were simple… Love and Respect Everyone at All Times!! Their actions created an ever lasting and All Powerful bond that is the Keepa Brotherhood. Not even the power of death could break the bonds of the Keepa brotherhood.
This is the Keepa story…
The Virtue of Brotherhood was instilled in the Cheramie Brother’s by their Father, Jody Cheramie or “Big Jo”. Big Jo taught his boys the most valuable lesson in life… Love and Respect Everyone, Always!! This is the seed planted at a very early age that allowed both Tyler (or TC) and Korte to share their brotherhood outside the confines of their bloodline. Strangers became friends then became family to the Cheramie’s because they provided a true sense of belonging… Belonging to something good, something real, something special!!
The Cheramie family household became a community family household where family and friends would gather to grow in the virtues of faith, hope and love!! People yearn for love and they found it with the Cheramie’s… The love that can only be found in a family… The love found in a Brotherhood!!
Big Jo expanded his role of a Father to all of TC and Korte’s Brothers. He was our biggest fan as we grew from little boys to young men and constantly reminded us to “Keep those Heads Up, Boys” in both good times and bad. Often times, we would go ride to their house knowing TC and Korte were not home just so we can experience that sense of self-less love of a Father who’s only desire was the happiness and well-being of his Kids, even though they weren’t his children. The knowledge and wisdom obtained during these childhood visits gave us the courage to grow-up and challenge ourselves, as well as our brothers, to constantly strive in becoming a better man everyday for the rest of our lives. Big Jo often said “I’ve seen some pretty special things in my years, but the bond that exist between you boys is by far the most special thing I’ve ever seen or experienced in my life.”
In January of 2006, while Tyler was attending Northwestern State University on a full-paid football scholarship and Korte was in his senior year of high school tragedy struck the Cheramie family. Big Jo suffered a blood clot that took his life in an instant. Korte witnessed this most devastating event first-hand and held his Dad in his arms as he passed on from this life to the next. Darkness loomed over the Cheramie household in the years that followed. The Rock that was the foundation of this most special family had gone away.
However, a glimmer of hope still remained. TC knew how proud his dad was to watch him take the field every Saturday. Big Jo’s words “Keep those Head’s Up, Boys” resonated in TC’s heart and gave him the motivation to finish his collegiate football career as a 3 time letterman at NSU. Tyler never lost Faith and returned after finishing school. Tyler and Korte began to look past their own grief and started reflecting on the virtues their father instilled in them… “Love and Respect Everyone” became their motto and their lifestyle. Both brothers became very passionate about offshore fishing and living the outdoor lifestyle.
The character that made the Cheramie men so special was their sense of duty to serve their community with the hopes of making it better. This could easily be observed at the way they socialized at any social event… They engaged with people at everywhere they went. They always made it a point to shake literally hundreds of people’s hands and engage in conversation with them… It was their desire to make people feel special. To the casual observer, you would just notice a “glow” or “feel the permanent smile” that existed in the crowd of people where Tyler was conversing. On the other end of the room, you would swear that a famous stand-up comedian was performing by the intense outburst of laughter only to find out that it was just Korte telling one of his animated, “never-exaggerated” stories. The Cheramie Brothers never forgot how important people were to them and it was obvious how this “Love and Respect Everyone” motto was influencing others around them to do the same. It was quite obvious that Big Jo was still very much alive in heart and spirit and was dwelling in each of his boys.
Life for the Cheramie’s was back on track until January 28th 2015 when tragedy struck again. Tyler was involved in a fatal car accident that took his life sending the entire brotherhood into the deepest, darkest state of despair. Words cannot even begin to describe the many years of tremendous pain, agony, suffering and sorrow that Korte had experienced, so there is no use in trying to write them. All hope for Korte was lost and it appeared as though he would remain trapped in a constant state of darkness.
But, about a year or so after TC passed something happened… Something unexplainable… Something supernatural… Something Divine!! Korte miraculously found and made his peace with God. He took it a step further and made it his life’s mission to share this peace and new found hope with his brother’s everywhere across the world… Keepa!!! Korte’s passion for fishing turned him into an expert fisherman. Korte’s passion for people transformed him into a “Fisherman of Men” and Keepa was his vessel. He saw Keepa as an opportunity to go out fishing for his lost brother’s across the world. His passion was to reach out to his brother’s who were in the deepest pits of despair so they could share their stories and he could provide hope to the hopeless. He firmly believed he could Change the World by loving, respecting and helping people. He wanted everyone to find their peace. Its the self-less love he learned from Big Jo coming round full circle and he was ready to share it with the world.
The Keepa logo was designed by Korte a few months after TC died simply as a way to honor his brother’s memory. The logo, originally named the “TC hook”, was simply Tyler’s initials (and nickname) integrated into a symbol of the thing they enjoyed the most… Fishing!! The simplicity of the logo was what made it so special to all of TC’s brother’s that were struggling with his passing. Korte became obsessed with the logo and spent countless hours obsessing over how beautiful it was to him and just knew there was something deeper hidden in the logo. Eventually, he saw what that something was… He saw Jesus!! He was searching in darkness and found light.
He then realized the logo needed a new name if he was going to “Change the World” with his message and apparel line. Inspired by the Spirit he first arrived at “Christian Fisherman” since it combined both faith and fishing… However, Korte knew how this started and that was with his brother which couldn’t be found in the name “Christian Fisherman”… He spent many many hours conversing with his brother’s about the name getting nowhere. Until one day, when he found himself on a fishing boat with 2 of his brother’s arguing about something silly. Korte finally had enough and silenced everyone in the boat by asking the question “What do we have to do in our lives so we can get to Heaven and be with TC again?” After about 15 minutes of dead silence someone finally said “We need to be Our Brother’s Keeper”… Moments later the first fish of the trip was caught, a nice sized speckled trout and someone else shouted “That’s a Keepa!!”
The four month’s leading up to Korte’s final journey at sea were nothing short of a miracle. He constantly preached the Keepa message to his closest brother’s using very few words… It was his actions that spoke louder than any voice could ever speak!! His only focus was doing the things necessary to get to Heaven so he, and his brother’s, could be reunited with Big Jo and TC. To him this meant he was only focused on helping and loving others and the wisdom he began to share with us had well surpassed his years, like an old soul was speaking to us. He never ended a conversation with anyone without saying “I love you”. He became more involved with the Church outside of just going to mass on Sunday. He was giving himself more fully to others and showing us, his brother’s, a radical approach to life that revolved around serving other’s (love of thy neighbor). He was laying down the foundation by his actions for what it truly meant to be a Fisherman of Men, a Keepa.
Many of his brother’s laid witness to Korte’s miraculous transformation over those 4 months… It was darkness transforming to light and more beautiful than watching a sunrise over the South Louisiana marsh. It was more peaceful than sitting in the woods on a cool crisp Fall morning. It was more exciting than seeing multiple flocks of Green Head mallards landing in the pond when you and your brother’s are ducking down low in the blind. Korte’s transformation inspired us, all of his brother’s to follow his lead and become Keepa’s.
At the end of those 4 months, Korte decided he needed money to begin Keepa’s mission and ministry. He took a Captain’s job transporting boats from south LA to overseas. Around the 2 year anniversary of his brother Tyler, Korte set sail across the Gulf of Mexico to the Panama Canal. On February 25th 2017, Korte had a seizure that
took his life. This unspeakable and unforgivable tragedy should have been the final blow to destroy the brotherhood. But, the surviving spiritual brother’s of the Cheramie brother’s heard those words once spoken by Big Jo… “KEEP those heads up, Boys”!!! That special bond that Big Jo once spoke of is indeed “the most special thing ever experienced or seen” because the bond still very much does exist and only grows stronger and stronger each and everyday. It exist through the spirit and can be found any where and at all times, especially in the outdoors or in the Church.
There’s one more thing… Out of all the Love the Cheramie men had in their hearts for people, none of it is greater than the Love they have for their Momma and Best Friend, Jill Cheramie!! Taking care of their Momma is the most important thing that both TC and Korte do… The Cheramie Brother’s always made this their #1 priority. Their #2 priority was to make sure that their brother’s take care of Mrs. Jill too, just like they do… “No Matter What!!” Mrs. Jill, is the Mother of all the Keepa’s and is by far the Strongest Person you’ll ever meet. She stands at the head of the Keepa table, here with us today filled with Faith, Hope and Love… Her strength is remarkable to say the least and is a living testimony of how remaining a Faithful servant of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (“No Matter What”) gives you the strength to move mountains so you can “Keep” moving forward, out of the darkness and into the Light!!
Keepa tells us to LIVE Our Lives to the Fullest, KNOWING Your Brother’s are here with you always and the Keepa Brotherhood is Alive Always through the Spirit of Faith, Hope and Love.. We are Our Brothers’ Keepa!!