A gentle and loving soul left this life with the passing of Rachel Leah (Van Valkenburg) Kelley at the Baystate Franklin Medical Center on Nov. 1, 2013. Born in Shelburne Falls on June 9, 1919 to William A. and Gertrude (Pervere) Van Valkenburg, Mrs. Kelley attended Crittenden School in Buckland and later, Arms Academy in Shelburne, from which she graduated with the Class of 1937. In her later years, Mrs. Kelley recalled having to walk more than one mile each way from the Van Valkenburg family home on State Street to Crittenden School, and later to Arms Academy, in all kinds of weather. She also credited her mother for carrying the family of seven through very hard times that were occasioned by her father's debilitating heart condition, which forced his withdrawal as the family breadwinner and ultimately resulted in his early and untimely death.
While in her senior year of high school, the then Miss Van Valkenburg met Ernest R. Kelley of Shelburne Center, who was to become the love of her life. They were married in September of 1937, and the now Mrs. Kelley moved to the Kelley family farm on South Shelburne Road. That small, diversified dairy farm was a ""family farm"" in the truest sense, in that the newlyweds joined an extended family consisting of Ernest's brother and sister-in-law, mother and father, all of whom lived together in the old farmhouse and shared in the responsibilities necessary for the livelihood of the family and the running of the farm.
It is fair to say that in those days before the arrival of many of the household conveniences that are in common use today, many of the new Mrs. Kelley's duties involved a lot of hard work. There were many loads of wash to be gotten out with the old wringer washer (and hung out on the clothesline in sometimes freezing weather), many floors to be swept, many apple pies, sheets of cookies and loaves of bread to be baked, many meals to be prepared and many jars of home canning to be put up in season. But under the able and affectionate tutelage of her mother-in-law, Dolly Elizabeth Newhall Kelley, (""Aunt Lizzie"" to many in the Shelburne community) she became expert and efficient in all aspects of homemaking. And because all of this was for her family, Mrs. Kelley entered into her work with an air of cheerfulness, optimism and love that was to become the hallmark of her life. She could often be heard humming or softly singing as she worked.
She became especially well-known for her raised doughnuts, which she made according to the often imitated but never surpassed ""Winnie Loomis recipe"" and fried on the woodstove. She was also well-known for her decorated wedding and anniversary cakes, which she made for relatives and many others in the greater Shelburne community.
Despite her many household chores on the farm, Mrs. Kelley made time for community activities. She was a 75-year member of the Shelburne Congregational Church, where she taught Sunday School and served on the Ladies Aid Committee for many years. She was a long-time member of the Shelburne Grange, filling several offices. She especially enjoyed working with her friends on the Grange Feast Committee, which has put on countless community dinners, suppers and receptions over the years. She was also a member of the executive committee of the Sons and Daughters of Hawley.
Mrs. Kelley loved children, and when her children and grandchildren arrived, she attended to their care with the same love and gentleness that filled all other aspects of her character. No strict disciplinarian, she believed in guiding their behavior through example and persuasion. She loved reading to her children and grandchildren and telling fascinating nighttime stories of fictional nature. Whether it was picking blueberries, canning, baking, or just shelling peas, she would always find a way to engage with the children and connect in a very special way. Both they and she herself would often say that that was one of the happiest periods of their lives.
She leaves her son, Ernest W. Kelley and his wife, Hsiu-li of Conway, MA., with whom she had lived for the last ten years; grandson, Loren Alpha Kelley and his companion, Lena Jillson, of Colrain, MA; granddaughter, Leah (Kelley) Phinney and her husband, Bill, of New Haven, CT; grandson, John William Carpenter, and his wife Katherine (Aborn) of Ellington, CT; granddaughter, Cheryl Provencher, of Enfield, CT; granddaughter, Holly Carpenter, of East Windsor, CT; past son-in-law, Brian Carpenter, of East Windsor, CT; ten great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. She also leaves her nephew, Fred Kelley, of Shelburne, who grew up at the farm, and who she treated like a second son.
She was predeceased by her beloved husband of 63 years, Ernest Raymond Kelley, in 2000; by her daughter, Joyce, in 2012; and by her friend and companion of later years, the Rev. Gordon Newell, former pastor of the Shelburne Congregational Church, in 2007.
Memorial contributions may be made in her name to: The First Congregational Church of Shelburne, 22 Church St., Shelburne Center, MA 01370; or Shelburne Grange Nol 68, c/o Roland Giguere, 40 Little Mohawk Road, Shelburne, MA 01370.
Memorial services for Mrs. Kelley will be held at the First Congregational Church of Shelburne on Nov. 10th at 2 p.m. A committal service will be held at the East Hawley Cemetery, corner of Plainfield Road and Ashfield Road in East Hawley, MA, on Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m.
Smith-Kelleher Funeral Home in Shelburne Falls is in charge of arrangements. To send a message of condolence visit: www.smithkelleherfuneralhome.com