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Francis P. Kelley

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Kelley, Francis P., 85, passed away April 29, 2010 at home, his wife, Bette, with whom he shared the love and magic for 30 years, at his side. Born in Lynn, MA, April 7, 1925, he was predeceased by his parents Arthur and Beatrice Kelley, brother Mel Kelley and sisters Dorothy Hoff, Bernice Giliberty, and Helen Kelley. He is survived by his daughter Linda Duckstein, daughters and sons-in-law Claudia and Gordon Rowley, and Sarah and Peter St. Laurent, also by his son and daughter-in-law Vincent and Judith Kelley and sons Mark and Garth Kelley. In addition, he leaves eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps, Third Division, Amphibious Corps, in the South Pacific and China during World War II. He was a graduate of Columbia University, NY, with two Masters degrees. Throughout his distinguished career of over 40 years in human services, he shared knowledge, expertise, and friendship with parents, professionals, and persons with developmental disabilities throughout the United States, Brazil, Ireland, England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Argentina, and France. As an advocate and friend for all those with developmental disabilities, not only within the framework of state and federal government, but also in terms of his sincere and personal commitment to improving their welfare, quality of life, rights and dignity, has been a catalyst for creating dramatic and positive changes in the lives of thousands. He was a consultant to President John F. Kennedys panel on mental retardation (formulating in the signing of Bill # H.R. 7544 The Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendments Act of 1963) as well as that of the Johnson-Nixon Administration and worked closely with the National Association for Retarded Citizens (NARC) to get the federal government to increase funding for research, prevention, and services. Transformed Mansfield Training School in Storrs, CT into a modern rehabilitative, residential care training center, attracting world-wide attention because of its excellent education. Opened the first apartment house for persons with mental retardation in the U.S. in Hartford, CT in 1962. Was a consultant to the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation in Washington, D.C. and worked closely with Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Senator Edward Kennedy, and other family members over 35 years to improve services for persons with developmental disabilities through projects such as Special Olympics, Best Buddies International, Play-to-Grow, day camps, institutional reform, Retarded People who are Aging, vocational rehabilitation and the development of community group homes. Assisted Eunice Shriver in staging the first Special Olympics games at Soldiers Field in Chicago in 1968. Worked as a volunteer and coach and having served two terms as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Special Olympics, in 1995, he was inducted into the Special Olympics Hall of Fame. As Division Director of Mental Retardation of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services in Tallahassee, FL, mounted a drive by parents and professionals on behalf of Floridas developmentally disabled citizens which culminated in the passage by the 1975 Florida Legislature of The Bill of Rights for the Retarded, the first of its kind in the U.S. to be signed into law. During 16 years tenure in MA, as Superintendent of Wrentham State School (Wrentham Developmental Center), was a major player in the Massachusetts Right to Treatment Suit which led to massive improvements in services and a tremendous deinstitutionalization effort. He was also an expert witness for the U.S. Justice Department in similar cases throughout the country. Organized a booster group called The Friends of Wrentham comprised of citizens, businessmen, sports celebrities (New England Patriots, Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox) as well as television and radio personalities, resulting in an annual Golf and Tennis Tournament which continues today (31st year) and has raised well over $3,000,000. His passion for tennis continued after retirement as a volunteer at the Delray Beach Tennis Center (Fran Kelleys Court Crusaders) as well as player/captain of two mens teams. A man for all seasons; a true visionary, Fran Kelley believed if you can dream it, you can do it and he did just that. This was no ordinary life. This was a life well-lived and well-loved, a life that will be deeply missed by those touched by his legendary spirit, compassion for and dedication to human kind and his grace. In memory of Fran Kelley, donations may be made to: Wrentham Developmental Center, P.O. Box 144, Wrentham, MA 02093.

Published in The Country Gazette from June 9 to June 16, 2010
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