Deceased July 18, 2007
View alumni profile (log in required)
Fred Kelley, '68, of Providence, R.I. died on Wednesday, July 18, 2007, peacefully at home, after a short illness. Fred is survived by his wife of 40 years, Susan Kelley, a talented pianist and teacher, his two children, Michael Raymond Kelley of Providence and Bevin Lorraine Kelley of Oakland, Ca (soon to be of Providence); and his brother James Kelley II of Cape Cod. He worked as a systems analyst in Providence and Boston. After retirement, he continued to pursue his interests in baseball,music, science and literature.
For us, Fred's death has stimulated an unusual set of recollections, beginning with decisions to become his roommates at various times in the freshman and sophomore dormitories and in Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Despite his athletic abilities, Fred was painfully shy. He had come from a regimented parochial school to a liberal arts environment and had difficulty making that transition. Throughout his time at Amherst, Fred continued to struggle with a commitment to "academic achievement." His disenchantment with Amherst's academic structure caused him to range into courses or individual explorations with no apparent focus. This disinterest did not extend, however, to the baseball field, where Fred starred, hitting .417 his senior year. After Amherst, he played in various baseball leagues, culminating in the Rhode Island Men's Senior Baseball League, in which he intensely participated up to his death.
While Fred matriculated to University of Virginia's Law School upon graduation, it became apparent that his motivations were elsewhere. Only later did we begin to realize the depth of his intellectual curiosity and eclectic variety of interests. His passions were in music (he played in a balalaika orchestra), rugby, poetry, chess, art and eventually family through his devoted and talented wife Sue and their children Bevin and Michael (both of whom graduated with music degrees from Oberlin having attended there through merit scholarships). He had particular pride in Bevin's musical talent (she graduated from Oberlin with double degrees in violin performance and English), and in the professional stature of his son Michael as a classical violist, and supported Michael's Apple Hill chamber music ensemble as it brought music to young people in divided communities over the world. We were enthralled by his son's chamber music concerts.
Fred read broadly and deeply. He was relatively disdainful of the workplace - he had entered the field of computer programming, but he derived joy elsewhere. Upon retirement, Fred began to contribute his love of baseball and chess to young people in Providence at the San Miguel School, where the school's first scholarship fund is being established in his name. An official at that school wrote that "my brief friendship with him barely scratched the surface. You'd see him studying a chess problem and you'd sense the depth of his mind. But painting? poetry? I hadn't a clue. Too bad because I only knew Fred for his sweet swing and talent with kids. If only I had dug deeper or he had tooted his own horn just a tad louder." When Fred called with the news of his terminal illness, he mailed a book on baseball. He was at peace with his life and fulfilled that he had shared his passions with children. Few of his classmates could have understood the diverse extent of his talents, and his legitimate designation as a baseball all-American spoke only to one aspect of his life.
Fred epitomized the saying "Still water runs deep." Fred's intellect was accompanied by an acute sense of observation, a completely irreverent sense of humor, and a genuine interest in people - at least those who did not take themselves too seriously. He valued deeply his personal friendships. We were privileged to have had a peek into who he really was. Fred enjoyed life, albeit in an unconventional way.
There follows a poem by Fred's brother-in-law, a Professor of English at Brown University. It seems to the three of us, as well as to Fred's family, to have captured Fred perfectly.
Song for a Self-effacing Philosopher
When Politicians spoke with furrowed brows
before admiring crowds,
or charlatans performed cheap tricks onstage
Fred's response was amused contempt
spiced with sporadic outrage
His jeremiads were jolly and insightful,
delineating goofy human farces,
prose, poetry instructive and delightful,
heartening, not bitter
benign, courteous wit.
When some dismaying idiocy of the workplace
threatened to spoil his after-work elation,
Fred might pick up a book, or cheer on the Sox,
or listen to Sue or Bevin or Michael play,
finding his antidote in appreciation.
Fred never sought, as unwise fathers did,
authority in distance or disdain.
He played with his kids like a kid,
and that was quite consistent with fatherhood,
as the results make plain.
Fred was perhaps not perfect. Happily
lost in a book, he may have been quite slow
to answer questions or attend to chores,
for all I know.
But this is a eulogy.
To each of many friends whose stressful fate
mandates exposure to the public gaze,
whether to teach or write, to draw or paint,
to ply the keyboard or to coax the string,
Fred left the lesson the way he played:
just step to the plate
--Rick Russom (Fred's brother-in-law)
Charles Johnson '60
Hugh Jones '60
John Quisenberry '60