I never met Bill Keene face-to-face, but I am deeply saddened at his unexpected and early passing.

Not too long after hiring on with The Packer I was working on a food safety story. During my research I kept coming across references to William Keene, senior epidemiologist for Oregon's Public Health Department.

His credentials were a bit intimidating, but when I'm in reporter-mode it is easy to overcome such feelings.

I dialed the phone and much to my surprise Bill answered. He made time to talk with me and I stayed on the phone much longer than I needed to because he was absolutely fascinating.

Bill could take the most complex scientific concepts and put them in terms that I and my readers could easily understand.

Colleagues and foes alike recognized Bill's brilliance. He was known as a food safety hero and often likened to Sherlock Holmes because of his relentless and systematic approach to investigations of foodborne outbreaks. 

Respected food safety scientist diesAlthough he could describe potential contamination scenarios that would make any produce grower or shipper have nightmares, Bill was a realist.

"The bottom line is millions of people eat millions of pounds of fresh produce in this country every day and don't get sick," he told me more than two years ago.

"We really do have the safest food supply in the world in this country."

Bill was only 56 when he died Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, after a brief battle with pancreatitis.

My thoughts go out to his family, friends and colleagues.

The Oregonian newspaper did a nice job reporting on his life and work: http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/12/oregons_top_food_safety_sleuth.html