The Kellers and Their Millions
"Me Rich/You Pretty"
The Kellers had lived as man and wife for eight years, producing a son, before their marriage went bad.
They were an unlikely pair.
She was an unrefined beauty from rural Germany with an eighth-grade education and an unfulfilled dream of a career as a fashion model.
He was a self-made man of ethnic German background. Over time, Fred Keller had methodically earned a fortune in commercial real estate by shrewdly buying one building after anothermany of them undiscovered bargainsuntil he owned more than five dozen. He personally managed his holdings with the tenacity of a watchdog.
Keller lived well, although he was no social peacock. He eschewed the south Florida country club scene and preferred cars and clothing that were broken in. Outside of making money, his passion was tennis, and on the court he stalked opponents with the same determination he displayed in business.
But in the early 1990s, Keller found himself alone with his millions. In February 1992, before Internet matchmaking flourished, he used a quaint method to meet an alluring stranger: the newspaper classifieds.
Keller hadnt had much luck with American women. He could count his marriages on one hand, but he was running out of fingers.
He decided to try the old country for an everlasting love match, placing a me rich/you pretty personal ad in a western German newspaper.
The ads message was a simple come-on: American millionaire seeks slim young woman.
A middle-aged mother in the small town of Dorlar, Germany, saw the ad and immediately thought of her 25-year-old daughter, Rose.
Rose Keil was a country girl raised in a lovely setting, amid the verdant peaks and valleys of mountainous west-central Germany, where the Brothers Grimm concocted their curious stories.
The Keils were a large, middle-class Protestant family. Her father was an engineer, her mother a mathematician. They had six children, three of each gender.
But Rose had grown discontent with her life in Dorlar, a village of just 1,100 people.
She was surrounded by the temptations of big cities. Frankfurt, a large industrial center, was just 40 miles to the south. And the sprawling metropolis of Dusseldorf/Essen, with a total population of well over 1 million, was 75 miles to the northwest, a scant hour away on the autobahn.
Dusseldorf, in particular, was a sophisticated placea European shopping hub known as The Fashion City. It hosts huge fashion fairs several times a year and is known internationally for its shopping districts, Königsallee and Schadowstraße.
Roses parents split up just as she became a teenager, and Mrs. Weil opened a womens clothing shop in a fashionable center city section of Wiesbaden, near Frankfurt.
Rose dropped out of school to work with her mother, and the two immersed themselves in fashion, often traveling to Dusseldorf to buy clothing for the shop.
She had grown into a striking adolescent, with coltish limbs, porcelain skin and honey-colored hair that trailed to her waist.
Customers, friends and her mother directed her toward a career as a model, and by age 16 she had joined the legions of leggy European teenagers looking for work as human mannequins in Dusseldorf.
She found occasional modeling work, including on the runways of fashion shows. But she wasnt really earning a living, and a sour breakup with a boyfriend left her looking for a new adventure as she reached her mid-20s.
Kellers classified ad popped up at just the right moment in her young life. With her mothers encouragement, she replied with a letter and a photograph.
Fred Keller was thrilled by what he saw. He had 33 years on the lithe and lovely woman. That may have been unusual in Dorlar. But not among the wealthy set in West Palm Beach.