Joseph Patrick Kelly died on Wednesday, October 3, 2012, after 94 ½ years of a love-filled, creative and energetic life. He leaves behind a sister, five children and spouses, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
He was born in Hoboken, N.J. on March 6, 1918 to Irish immigrants Joseph Kelly and Catherine Grimes Kelly. He married the love of his life, Phyllis Wiegard Kelly, in 1942 and they shared 64 years of marriage until her death in 2006.
During World War II they were apart for 27 months while he was in Europe with the U.S. Army’s 8th Air Force, much of the time as an air traffic controller working with pilots of damaged aircraft returning across the English Channel from bombing missions over Europe. He had the deepest respect for his fellow veterans who saw actual combat, but was proud of the fact that his team, locked in the control room of an airfield near Peterborough in Great Britain, was among those with early knowledge ofe the D-Day invasion strategy as it took shape on the top secret planning tables.
Prior to WW2, he had worked at several Madison Avenue advertising agencies and, after the war, his wife Phyllis encouraged him to open his own successful small advertising agency, Kelly Advertising..
In 1950 they moved to Chatham Township where he became known and respected for his many volunteer contributions to the community.
He was a huge believer in community service and through his company, Kelly Advertising, he helped involve the business community in working to improve Chatham’s special culture. He was a member of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce and was a leading force in creating the original Fishawack Festival and the popular Chatham Kite Flying contest. He used his artistic abilities to co-design the official Chatham Township seal.
He served on the township Recreation Commission and on the Chatham Emergency Squad for two years. He and his wife Phyllis were members of Corpus Christi’s first parish council. And he volunteered for Sage Meals on Wheels until he was well into his 80s, delivering meals to elderly people who in many cases were younger than he was.
But perhaps he was best known across the community for his almost perfect attendance across four decades at meetings of the Chatham Board of Education where he was a tireless campaigner for financial accountability and open government. He ran for the school board in 1965, 2003, and in 2004 when he was 86. And although never elected, he calculated that he attended more school board meetings than any elected member of the board. He was a founding member of the Taxpayers Association of Chatham Township, known as TACT, which analyzed school budgets and salary contracts and argued that public payrolls and pensions were outstripping the taxpayers’ ability to pay.
He had a zest for life. In his early 60’s he earned his private pilot’s license and bought a small airplane. At 90 he bought a convertible. He and his wife Phyllis loved to travel, visiting Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. In their 60’s they went around the world with just carry-on luggage. But Ireland remained their favorite spot
He leaves behind an example and legacy of love. He treasured and nurtured family ties. He was proud of his family and supported their diverse interests and aspirations. He is survived by his sister, Agnes Kelly Rogers; daughter, Barbara Kelly; his sons and their spouses, Michael and Maureen Close Kelly, Peter and Diana Moy Kelly, Thomas and Beth Kirkland Kelly, and John Kelly & Diana Siemer.