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David J. Kelly


1927 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
David J. Kelly Obituary
David J. Kelly
On April 2, 2017 after a brief illness. Dave was born in Lee, MA on April 4, 1927 to James A. and Gertrude Fahey Kelly. He came to the Crystal River, FL area from Pittsburgh, PA in 1995, first as a winter resident and then permanently in 2002.
Dave was an award-winning radio and newspaper reporter and a television news director whose career spanned many different positions in some of the highest-rated newspapers and television and radio stations across the country.
He left high school in 1944 to serve in the US Navy during World War II. He was a signalman in the Pacific; first aboard the aircraft carrier USS Langley and, at war's end, aboard the USS Princeton when it went into commission.
After leaving the Navy, he returned to Lee and graduated from high school in 1947. He then attended the University of Maryland where he worked as the campus correspondent for the Baltimore Sun papers, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post. In 1952 he became sports copy boy at the post and was named a reporter six months later. He covered golf and high school sports and wrote early stories about basketball great Elgin Baylor at Spingarn High School in Washington when the DC schools were segregated. Dave moved to the city desk at the Washington Post in 1954 and covered the Washington, DC police beat. He also served as a night rewriter and general assignment reporter. In 1957 Dave moved to Pittsburgh, PA after accepting a job at the Pittsburgh Press as a feature writer and columnist. He covered military affairs in the late 1950s, becoming the first civilian reporter to fly an overseas rotation mission with a fighter squadron from Myrtle Beach AFB commanded by Colonel Francis S. Gabreskie, then the leading living ace of World War II.
Dave's feature writing and news reporting earned him the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers' awards for spot news and features in 1960. One of his favorite assignments was doing extensive reporting and writing on the Pittsburgh Pirates' run for the pennant which culminated in Bill Mazeroski's series-winning home run against the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
Television beckoned the following spring, and Dave joined KDKA-TV as a writer for a local morning program. After that, he moved to KDKA radio, first as a writer and, six months later, as news director. A year later, he was back in the television field as a news director of KDKA-TV and was the only person who served in that capacity for both radio and television.
In 1964, Cox Broadcasting Company bought the NBC Station in Pittsburgh (formerly WIIC and currently WPXI), and Dave was hired as their news director. He later became the station's commentator while still maintaining his news director duties. In 1967 he was named Man of the Year in Communications by the Pittsburgh Junior Chamber of Commerce and shared the dais with the Man of the Year in Sports, the late Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 1968 WIIC won the National Headliners' Club award for best newscast for major market stations. The following year, after being hired as news director for WWJ radio and television in Detroit, MI, Dave's leadership again won the Headliners' best news operation award.
Dave went to WMAL-TV in Washington, DC in 1972 after accepting a position as their news director and returned back to Pittsburgh three years later as a commentator at WPXI on a daily news insert called Kelly's Pittsburgh. He was known for The Golden Shaft, an "award" that he bestowed upon various locals for their less than stellar professional behavior.
Dave was a loving and devoted husband, a supportive and caring father, and was known as Pa to his grandchildren during his later years. He was big-hearted, opinionated, and had an unparalleled sense of humor. He was a master storyteller and could recite innumerable limericks by heart, many of which could never be published in this newspaper. Dave never missed an opportunity to share a good joke and truly believed that laughter is the very best medicine.
He was predeceased by the love of his life, his wife and best friend Elizabeth "Betty" Kelly. Surviving are two sons, James A. Kelly and wife Azure of Homosassa, FL and David B. Kelly and wife Vonda of Richmond, VA; daughter Amanda K. Haffenden and husband Eddie of Summerville, SC; and five grandchildren: Adrienne and Kaitlyn Kelly, Liam and Dayna Haffenden, and Petra Kelly. He is also survived by several nieces, nephews, and cousins.
The Kelly family would like to extend their heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the nursing staff in the 600 wing of the Brentwood Health and Rehab Center in Lecanto, FL. Their kindness and patience made his last few weeks as comfortable as possible, and he was happy to be around such caring and compassionate people.
Visitation will be held at Strickland Funeral Home, 1901 S.E. Highway 19, Crystal River, FL on Friday, April 7, 2017 at 10 a.m. Funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Interment will be immediately following the service at the National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of Citrus County, P.O. Box 641270, Beverly Hills, FL 34442.
Published in Citrus County Chronicle on Apr. 5, 2017
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