The Passing of an Icon: Keki Bhote

Keki Bhote ( 1925 – 2013)

In the early days of our (Zoroastrian) presence in North America, in the 1950s and 1960s, any Zoroastrian bound for America was given the names of Keki and Mehroo Bhote to contact upon arrival. And indeed, Keki (who arrived in the USA in 1948) and his wife Mehroo (who joined him in 1955) earned this reputation from their passionate commitment to the fledgling Zarathushti community on this continent.

By Rohinton Rivetna

We were fortunate to have the towering presence of Keki and Mehroo, in Chicago during our early formative years. Deeply engaged and committed to the community, their hospitality to any new arrival in the Chicago area in those early years, is legend.

Keki’s vision was that of an open, committed, well-connected and prosperous community in North America, a community that was independent and unfettered by the strictures of the past. In the inaugural newsletter of the “Zoroastrian Association of America” which he founded in 1965, Keki writes “…. It is time now, for those of us in the vanguard of this migration, to plan on ways and means to preserve our identity and our heritage while participating fully in the American way of life ….” While the thinking was visionary, the ZAA was perhaps a few years ahead of its time, and gradually folded. However, one can say his vision is undoubtedly unfolding as we grow and mature on this continent, as we see the seeds planted by Keki now flowering in the form of Zoroastrian Associations across USA and Canada as well as FEZANA, the federation of Zoroastrian Associations in North America.

Keki was a seeker, whose independent and well-researched reflections have had a lasting influence on many – students and scholars alike. He was well endowed with a sharp intellect, a thirst for knowledge and masterful oratory. His research and writings on the Zoroastrian religion made him a sought-after speaker at conferences. In his later years, he spent much of his time engrossed in his studies and his writings. We anxiously look forward to his book on Zoroastrian history.

While he was beloved and respected for his contributions to his own Zoroastrian community as well as to local and national civic organizations, professionally, Keki had achieved worldwide recognition as the authority on ‘Six Sigma Quality’. Recipient of a a number of prestigious civic and professional awards, Keki has also authored over 20 books including World Class Quality, a NY Times Bestseller, which have become reference manuals for Quality in business and industry.

Originally from Coimbatore, India, Keki came to Harvard as a Tata Scholar in 1948. After his MS in Applied Physics and Engineering, Keki secured a job with the “up and coming, new company, Motorola” in Chicago from where he retired 42 years later as a Senior Corporate Consultant for Quality and Productivity. He later founded the consulting firm of Keki R. Bhote Associates, providing services worldwide.

A man of many talents and many passions, Keki has left a legacy on many fronts. A loving husband, father, and patriarch to his growing family, a man of vision to his North American Zoroastrian community, a benefactor to the worldwide Zoroastrian community through his role as President (North American region) of the World Zoroastrian organization, a scholar and teacher, a professional of worldwide acclaim, and above all, a wonderful human being.

We shall miss him sorely. May Ahura Mazda grant him “Garathman Behesht.”