George Leo KelleyJuly 8, 1939 ~ May 8, 2017 (age 77)
Newport, NH -- George Leo Kelley, 77, of Newport, NH died peacefully in his home on Monday, May 8, 2017, surrounded by his loving family. A strong-willed Irishman, George fought a long and gallant battle with chronic health conditions, including cancer, to which he eventually succumbed--but only after he decided it was time.
George was born in Bellows Falls, Vt, the second son of the late Leo Kelley, and Dorothy (Coburn) Parker. The family lived in Saxtons River Vermont, and George attended Kurn Hattin Home in Westminster VT during his middle-school years. He would later go on to become a member of the Kurn Hattin Board of Directors--his way of giving back for what was a positive life-changing experience for him. It was at Kurn Hattin where George met his mentor and role model, Remington B. Woodhull, which began a wonderful life-long relationship with Rem and his family.
He and his family moved to Newport shortly thereafter, and he remained to call Newport his home for the rest of his life. George was a member of the Towle Class of 1957, through which he formed many life-long friendships. That same year he enlisted in the US Navy, and received his initial training at Camp Lejune, NC. In the Navy, he served as a Fleet Hospital Corpsman (Medic) serving US Marines, and as such he had the honor of also wearing a Marine uniform. His service took him on a ship to the Middle East during the crisis in Beirut, Lebanon.
After his military service was completed, he returned to Newport, where he married the love of his life, Jeannette M. Gagne, in June 1962. They were devoted to each other, and happily raised three children, until Jeannette’s passing, also of cancer, in 1984. George will be laid to rest with Jeannette in St. Patrick's Cemetery in Newport.
His first job after his return to Newport was at the Argus Champion newspaper, where Editor Ed DeCourcy, another of his mentors, saw something special in him and hired him, literally, on the spot. It was with Ed’s tutelage and support that George honed his natural talent as a salesman and deal-maker. He would go on to sell ice cream for Green Acres Ice Cream in Croydon NH, then ventured into the insurance and real estate business, with Bill Tracey in Newport. In the early 70’s, George opened his own real-estate business, George Kelley Associates, eventually becoming Century 21 Kelley Associates, an agency which would grow to several locations and agents and become one of the most successful firms in the area. He was active in the Realtor’s Association during this time. As a side business in the 70’s, he partnered with good friend Vern Violette to open Pool Village, selling and installing swimming pools in the area. In the mid-80’s, George shifted professional gears and opened a retail convenience store, Kelley’s Pit Stop, which eventually became Kelley’s Video, in Newport NH, from which he retired only a few years ago.
George was generous with his time, and was involved with many volunteer community activities and organizations throughout his lifetime. He was the founding member of the Newport Jaycees (Jr. Chamber of Commerce) which, among other civic efforts, coordinated several Newport Winter Carnivals in the late 60’s and early 70’s, with George serving as MC of the Carnival’s Queen and Princess Pageants for several years. He was also a founding member of Housing for the Elderly and Handicapped of Newport (more commonly known as Maple Manor) in the late 70’s, and continuously remained active on its Board’s executive committee until his death. He also served the Town of Newport on the Newport Budget Committee for a time. George served on the Board of Trustees of Newport Hospital, including a term as Chairman. After the closing of the hospital in 1990, George, together with a few other Newport benefactors, went on to form the Hospital Hill Partnership, which found meaningful use of the former hospital property, including the development of the Summercrest assisted living facility. In the late ‘90’s he served on the Board of Directors of the Community Alliance of Human Services. He was also active in the Newport’s Lion Club for several years. In 1981, George was named a Newport Outstanding Citizen by the Newport Chamber of Commerce.
In the late 70’s and early ‘80’s, George was involved in the Newport Men’s Softball League, sponsoring a winning team for years. He also enjoyed playing tennis for several years, and was instrumental in the establishment and building of the Newport Tennis Club. In his later years, he enjoyed his weekly game of cards with the guys, and his Tuesday morning breakfasts with some of his high school buddies.
George will most be remembered for his good nature, indominable strength and resilience, incredible generosity, sense of humor, love of family, loyalty to friends, and helping those in need—not only through his professional and volunteer work, but also on a private, personal level, quietly benefitting many within our community.
George was pre-deceased by his parents, brother David Kelley, sister Priscilla Parker, his wife Jeannette, and his great-granddaughter Hannah Jean Ruthenberg. Members of his surviving family include 3 brothers, Leroy Kelley and wife Dawn of Miller, MO, Richard Kelley and wife Dale of Sunapee NH, and Thomas Kelley of Newport; 3 children, daughter Jodi Hoyt and husband David of Newport, daughter Pamela Kelley of Newport, and son Shawn Kelley of Essex Junction Vermont; 5 grandchildren, Dustin Holmes of Newport, Rebecca Ruthenberg and husband Eric of Merrimack NH, Meghan Pike and husband Shane of Newport, Amanda Perry, and Braytn Kelley of White River Junction, Vermont; and 4 great-grands, Ryker Pike, and soon-to-arrive baby girl Pike of Newport, and Caroline Ruthenberg and Michael Ruthenberg of Merrimack. He has numerous beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins near and far.
The family invites all to calling hours at the Newton-Bartlett Funeral Home in Newport on Thursday, May 18th from 5 to 8pm. A formal celebration of George’s life will take place on Friday July 7, 2017 at 11am at the Newport Forester's Club on Maple St.