Richard E. Kelley, 82: Activist and family man, professional Irishman, painter of Elm Street shamrocks

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Richard E. Kelley
Richard E. Kelley

MANCHESTER, NH — Richard E. Kelley, 82, died Jan. 10 at the Community Hospice House in Merrimack, surrounded by his family, after a brief illness.

He was born in Manchester on Nov. 6, 1932, the son of Lorraine (Carr) and Francis Christopher Kelley.

He was educated in Manchester schools and, after serving in Germany with the U.S. Army, he was graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1960.

Dick served as the first executive director of the Merrimack/Belknap County Community Action Program (CAP) and was a founder of the National CAP Directors Association, on which he served as executive secretary. He later founded the Richard E. Kelley Insurance Agency in Manchester and served as CEO until his semi-retirement in 2009.

He was an avid political activist and served as campaign director for the New Hampshire Presidential Primary candidacy of Sargent Shriver in 1975. His love of the political process also compelled him to open his home to visiting campaign workers for candidates ranging from Gary Hart to Al Gore, to John Kerry and Christopher Dodd.

Dick was a devout boating enthusiast, whether piloting his Chris Craft across Lake Winnipesakuee, sailing on board “Escape” on the Gulf of Maine or cruising the waterways off Pompano Beach in Florida aboard the good ship “Mystique.”

He was an eager – if inelegant – golfer, and he channeled his passion for the game to honor his late friend, Kevin McHugh, by helping to organize the annual Kevin McHugh/Trinity High School Fund Raising Golf Tournament.

Dick was once described as a “professional Irishman,” and he took that sentiment to heart. He was fiercely proud of his Irish heritage and staged annual St. Patrick’s Day concerts in Manchester featuring musicians such as Michael Jesse Owens and Chris Henshaw.

He also delighted in sharing the front page story from the New Hampshire Union Leader detailing his arrest for painting shamrocks on Durham’s Main Street on St. Patrick’s Day while a student at UNH. He was charged with defacing public property, but explained in court, “I wasn’t defacing public property, your honor. I was beautifying it.” That argument was enough to convince a sympathetic Scotsman, Judge Bradford W. McIntire, to exonerate him of all charges.

Dick was a charter member of the Rev. William J. Shanahan Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and also a member of the Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post # 2.

For all of his achievements, Dick’s greatest source of pride was his family, particularly when it came to following the sporting exploits of his children and grandchildren.

The family wishes to extend its deepest thanks to the doctors and nurses at the Elliot Hospital’s Cardiovascular Intermediate Care Unit and to the exceptionally caring staff at the Community Hospice House in Merrimack.

Dick was predeceased by his parents and his brother, Irwin Francis Kelley of Manchester.

He is survived by his wife of 54 Years, Pauline (Martel) Kelley of Manchester; son Francis and his wife, Ann (Cournoyer) Kelley, daughter Colleen and her husband, John Clayton, daughter Christine (Peaches) and her husband Jeffrey Paige, and daughter Kathleen Kelley-Arnold and her husband, Patrick Arnold, all of Manchester; daughter Marikate Kelley and her partner, Emmy Harvey of Monkton, Vermont; daughter Kerry and her husband, Len Pickus of Austin Texas, and son Richard (Dickie) Kelley of Incline Village, Nevada; grandchildren Kevin Kelley, Aiden Kelley, Owen Kelley, Elizabeth Kelley and Abigail Arnold, all of Manchester; Kelly O’Rourke, Molly O’Rourke, Thomas O’Rourke and Jennifer (Clayton) Pakler, all of Bedford; Grace Harvey and Nell Harvey of Monkton, Vermont; Kyle Pickus, Courtney Pickus and Amy Pickus of Austin, Texas; Peyton and Riann Kelley of Incline Village, Nevada; two great grandchildren, Cameron Pakler and Vivienne Clayton Pakler of Bedford; and two sisters, Beverly Thibault of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and Barbara Zielinski of Jupiter, Florida.

Calling hours at the Lambert Funeral Home & Crematory, 1799 Elm St., corner of North Street, will be Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Catherine of Siena Parish. Burial at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Dick’s memory be made to the Community Hospice House, 210 Naticook Road, Merrimack, NH, 03054.

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Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!