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John J. Kelly

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MANCHESTER -- Colonel John J. Kelly, U.S.A. Retired, a former member of the board of advisors and director of publicity for Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s historic home in Manchester, died Dec. 10, 2003 at Equinox Terrace, an assisted-living facility in Manchester, where he had resided since 1990.

He was 87 years old. The cause of death was cancer.

He was born in Yonkers, N.Y., the son of Matthew F. and Genevieve E. Kelly. He graduated from West Point in 1939 and was commissioned in the horse cavalry.

During World War II he commanded the 652nd Tank Destroyer Battalion in the U.S. After World War II he commanded the 141st Tank Battalion in Germany. His last Army post was chief of information of the First U.S. Army, headquartered at Governor’s Island in New York City.

Upon retirement from the Army he joined the international public relations firm of Thomas J. Deegan and later, Hill & Knowlton, where he worked on such accounts as Coca-Cola, The World’s Fair, the creation of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and a prototype of an all-electric automobile.

In 1985 he formed his own PR agency, which handled a stimulating variety of clients. Among them were a Swiss postage meter mailing company; the musical, “Rockwell,” a triumph of the life of America’s favorite artist; George Devens plays Rodgers and Hammerstein; Simmons Precision Products, an electronics manufacturer listed on the New York Stock Exchange; The Literacy Volunteers of America; and The Dorset Players. He later became vice president, PR for Ross Roy New York advertising agency, a branch of the Detroit agency headed by John Pingel, the all-American football player.

He felt that combining a civilian career with a military background gave him an unusual outlook that could encompass a broad array of clients.

He loved sports and played tennis (never could beat his wife, though) and golf. He was a member of the Fairfield Country Hunt Club, the Dorset Field Club, and the Weston Field Club.

He was predeceased by his father, mother, a brother and a sister. He is survived by his wife, the former Janet Eustis of Cambridge, Mass., whom he married in 1954; his daughter, Sarah K. Vigneron of Fairfield, Conn.; and two granddaughters, Kelly and Blair.

The funeral will be held at St. Paul’s Church in Manchester, Monday, Dec. 15, 11 a.m. Internment will be at Dellwood Cemetery.

Donations may be made to Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s historic home in Manchester, Vermont c/o Brewster Funeral Service, P.O. Box 885, Manchester, VT. 05255.
Published in Bennington Banner on Dec. 12, 2003
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