Joan Barnes Kelly
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May 16, 1930 - November 20, 2013
Joan Barnes Kelly, 83, passed away peacefully at her home on November 20, 2013. She stayed mentally sharp and retained her enthusiasm for life right up until the end. Joan was a proud resident of Olympia for nearly four decades.
Joan was born to Ralph and Esther Barnes in Rome, Italy in 1930. Ralph a correspondent for the Paris Herald Tribune newspaper was stationed in Europe at the time. When WWII broke out across Europe, Ralph arranged to have his wife and two young girls return to America while he stayed and became one of the great war correspondents of his time. Joan and her sister Suzanne Barnes returned to the family's home town in Salem, Oregon where Joan spent the rest of her school years and eventually met and married her high school sweetheart, Gerald Kelly in 1955.
Joan spent the next several decades raising three sons, Tom, Jeff and Trent and the family eventually moved to Olympia in 1974. Finding herself an "empty nester" in the early '80's and ready to dust off her "poly sci" degree from the University of Washington, Joan embarked on a "second career" and ran for the Olympia City Council. The ex-homemaker ran as a virtual unknown against a well known former land commissioner and won.
Joan chaired the Council's Community Development Committee during a five year period that saw remarkable revitalization in downtown. Many of the amenities that now make Olympia citizens proud such as our waterfront boardwalk and the Farmer's Market were born during this period. A member of the local media saluted Joan at her retirement from city council in 1987 with the following:
"Joan came to City Hall with no political base, no practiced political skills and no 'hidden agenda', yet no one better personifies the 'heart of the city' then councilwoman Joan Barnes Kelly".
Joan is survived by two remaining sons: Thomas M. Kelly a civilian employee of the Department of the Army who resides with his family in Arizona and her youngest son, Trent D. Kelly an attorney and a manager with the Washington State Department of Health in Tumwater. Her legacy will live on through her wonderful grandchildren - Taryn (Kelly) Williams and husband Caleb, Liam Kelly, and Sophia Kelly. Joan is also survived by her younger sister Suzanne Morrison and husband Robert of Salem, Oregon.
Joan was preceded in death by her husband of almost 50 years, Gerald Dunham Kelly of Olympia, WA, her son, Jeffery Barnes Kelly and parents Ralph W. and Esther Barnes of Salem, Oregon.
Published in StatesmanJournal on Dec. 4, 2013