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Katherine Crowley Kelly

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Katherine Crowley Kelly, 86, a long time resident of the Palm Beach, Florida, passed away on January 6, 2011. Born June 20,1924 in New Rochelle, New York to Katherine Holmes and Henry L. Crowley, Katherine grew up in South Orange, NJ, and in 1942 graduated from Miss Beard's School along with her life long friend Adelaide McCracken Wean.

Katherine graduated from Wellesley College in 1946. Following graduation she joined Henry L. Crowley & Company, Inc. in West Orange, NJ, the family's pioneering radio-electronics component manufacturing business, where she worked for a number of years, becoming Vice President. She was a founding member of the Society of Women Engineers.

During this time she vacationed at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, where she first became active in deep-sea fishing, which became one of her passions. As a member of The Sailfish Club of Palm Beach, she became an accomplished angler, and won many fishing contests and awards as well as setting a number of angling records. She was a founding member of the International Fishing Association.

In 1961 Katherine married Edward M. Kelly, who was known as Kelly. They became an inseparable couple and developed a successful real estate business in the Palm Beaches. But personal pursuits yielded to what would become their life's work. Katherine and Kelly became passionately involved in the civil rights movement, which led to their involvement in politics at the local, state, and national levels. Katherine became an unyielding champion of progressive causes, including women's and gay rights. Even after her beloved husband Kelly passed away in 1993, Katherine's commitment to social justice never wavered.

Katherine impacted the lives of many people throughout her years of involvement on many state and national boards. As a long time political activist, during the 1980s she helped lead Americans for Democratic Action, a national progressive organization. Over the years, Katherine became the matriarch of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party. She was named to the Electoral College and served as Democratic State Committeewoman for nearly three decades and served as a delegate to five Democratic National Conventions. She was at the forefront of the national movement to draft Ted Kennedy for president in 1980. In the twilight of her life, Katherine viewed the election of Barack Obama as a testament to the ability of committed individuals to change their world for the better.

In addition, Katherine was the Legislative Director for Florida NOW; a Vice President of the Florida Women's Political Caucus; and a Board member of NARAL. She was also the Development Director of Women Leaders Online, an internet communications network for feminist women and men. Katherine was recognized for her service by a number of organizations, including Outstanding Feminist 2001 by Florida NOW; and Woman of the Year in 2008 by the Democratic Women's Club of Palm Beach County.

In lieu of flowers, please consider honoring Katherine with a contribution to the NAACP or NOW. Visitation will be held this evening, Friday, January 7, 2011 from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Quattlebaum Funeral Home, 1201 South Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401. A Graveside Service will be held at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Cemetery, Royal Palm Beach, FL.

Published in Tallahassee Democrat on Jan. 7, 2011
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