Barbara Keller, Local Philanthropist and Businesswoman, Has Died

Barbara Keller, Local Philanthropist and Businesswoman, Has Died

News Staff

Family and friends are mourning the loss of a giant in the community, Barbara Keller. Keller died on Monday morning, she was battling cancer.

David Brinkman, president and CEO of Desert AIDS Project says he visited her the day before she died, “She was surrounded by her children and her grandchildren and the smile on her face was so big and I knew in that moment that she was getting ready to pass and that we were getting ready to say goodbye to a humanitarian, the likes of which I haven’t met before.”

Keller and her husband Jerry founded Lulu and Acqua California Bistros in Downtown Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.

Brinkman says the smiles on the customers faces when they visited their restaurants was not accidental, “That is who they are and that is what they created in their businesses, so how wonderful is that?”

Keller spent most of her time in the valley since the ’80s volunteering for many non profits. But Keller devoted most of her time, talent and treasure to Desert AIDS Project, where she served on their board for over a decade.

“Barbara was a light anywhere she went and we were so fortunate because she shined that light on Desert AIDS Project.”

Brinkman says she was more than a board member, she was a friend to him and anyone who needed someone, “She cared deeply about all people, the struggles people faced and using her abilities and her gifts and her talents to try to make life better for others.”

Keller was honored by the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards in 2017.

Her husband Jerry spoke about her during a video presentation, “It’s been an amazing adventure, we’ve done more fun things and made more wonderful friends than we ever thought we could,” he said. 

They were married for nearly four decades.

Friends say you can sum up her life by a quote from Anne Frank, one she lived by, ‘No one has ever became poorer by giving’.


Statement from Keller family:

Barbara Keller, beloved valley philanthropist and founder of Lulu and Acqua California Bistros in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, has passed away.

Barbara’s long history of service to the community includes serving as chairperson of the board of directors at Desert AIDS Project and co-chair of many Steve Chase Galas; vice-chair of the board of trustees at the Palm Springs Art Museum, trustee of the McCallum Theater and Jewish Family Service and a supporter of countless other charities.

Barbara’s most treasured role was beloved matriarch to her family – as a blessed life partner to her husband, Jerry, and “Nana” to her children and grandchildren. And, as devoted daughter to Rose Cohn (1912-2011) and Marvin “Papa” Cohn, who recently passed away at the age of 106 in March of this year. Equally important were her many dearest friendships.

Services will be held:
Thursday, April 18th, 10:00 a.m.
Temple Isaiah
332 W Alejo Road
Palm Springs, CA 92262