The Rev. James R. Kelley, Sr.

The Rev. James R. Kelley, Sr.

Passed on Monday, 09 January 2023

The Rev. James R. Kelley, Sr. died at his home in Hyannis, MA on January 9, 2023. He is survived by his beloved wife, Elaine (Murphy), to whom he was married for over 65 years, and by their two children, James, Jr. of Hyannis, and Kristin of Morristown, TN, whose lives and love he cherished.  Jim is also survived by his sister, Janice Cliggott, and sister-in-law, Helen Allbecker, both of Hyannis, and a number of much loved nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Born in Hyannis and raised in Hyannis Port, the son of the late Joseph B. and Aleta I. (Halunen) Kelley, Jim was president of the class of 1951 at Barnstable High School and of the class of 1952 at Hebron Academy in Hebron, ME, where he later served as a member of the Board of Trustees for more than 25 years. He was active in athletics at both schools, and in his younger years was a member of the DeMolay and of The Federated Church of Hyannis.

Jim received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Brown University, where he was a member of Theta Delta Chi, his Master of Divinity from Andover Newton Theological School, and did additional graduate study at Harvard Divinity School and Boston University.  He was ordained to the ministry of the United Church of Christ (Congregational) in Manning Chapel at Brown University in June of 1959.

He was a member of the staff at Old South Church in Boston before being appointed to the chaplaincy of the Mount Hermon School in Gill, MA, where he was a member of faculty until 1969. He was appointed Associate Dean of The College and Dean of Freshmen at Brown University, where he served until being elected Headmaster of Blair Academy in Blairstown, NJ in 1976.  At the time of his retirement in 1989, he was named Headmaster Emeritus and was an honorary member of the classes of 1951 and 1989.

Active in a variety of civic and professional organizations over the years, Jim was a former Trustee of the Hilltop School in Andover, NJ; president of the Headmasters Association of the Middle Atlantic States; a member of the Headmasters Association; a Director of the Newton Trust Company of New Jersey and of the Warren County (NJ) Family Guidance Center.

Following his retirement, Jim was appointed to the Barnstable Police Department as Chaplain to the Department and member of the domestic violence unit. He served on the Board of Directors of Independence House (an educational and counseling center of victims of domestic violence and abuse); the Board of Directors of the Salvation Army of the Cape and Islands; and the Board of Directors of the West Yarmouth Congregational Church, where he also served as President and Senior Deacon. He was a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants and of Howard Lodge of Masons, and was an emeritus trustee of Hebron Academy.

It is not surprising to have sailing as an integral part of his early life, having grown up at the ocean’s edge.  The vacation/retirement home he built many years ago, with the help of family and friends, was also at the water’s edge.  His passion in retirement was the building of model ships. He aimed to build one a year, a goal often achieved but one that sometimes eluded him because of the complexity of a particular ship.

Visiting hours will be at Chapman Funeral & Cremations, John-Lawrence Chapel, 3778 Falmouth Road, Marstons Mills on Friday, February 3rd from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. A memorial service will be held at the West Yarmouth Congregational Church on Saturday, February 4th at 1:00 p.m. The service will be live streamed at; click on the Live Services tab. After the service, the recording will be found under Past Services.  Memorial gifts may be made to the Kelley Sabbatical Fund at Blair Academy, Box 600, Blairstown, NJ 07825, or to the West Yarmouth Congregational Church, 383 Main Street, West Yarmouth, MA 02673.

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