R.K. “Keith” Kelley
BARDWELL — Royal K. “Keith” Kelley, 90, of Bardwell, passed away at 8:15 p.m., Thursday, April 25, 2013, at his home. Keith Kelley was born July 24, 1922, on the Kelley Family Homeplace on “Pea Ridge,” on the West Fork of Mayfield Creek, in Carlisle County. He attended Cunningham School and the University of Kentucky, where he graduated in 1943 with a degree in agriculture.
He returned to West Kentucky with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, first as assistant county agent for agriculture in Calloway County, and then as county agent for Ballard County for several years in the late ’40’s- early ’50s. In 1956, he obtained a Master’s degree in agricultural administration, from University of Wisconsin, and took a position with University of Kentucky in Lexington, coordinating agriculture and economic development for forty-four counties in Eastern Kentucky, funded by the Kellogg Foundation, and known as “the Quicksand Project.”
In 1965, Kelley joined West Virginia University and was put in charge of their agricultural mission to Tanzania, East Africa, where he and his family resided for two years before returning to the US. Kelley then remained with WVU for some time, and thereafter held positions with the Tennessee Economic Development Cabinet, and with the US Department of Commerce-Economic Development Administration, with posts in Nashville, Denver, and Pikeville, before retiring in 1980.
Kelley then returned to West Kentucky, to reside in Wickliffe where he was elected Mayor in 1980, serving from 1981 to 1989. As Mayor, Kelley achieved major funding from state and federal sources and accomplished major improvements for the City. These include the purchase and initial development of the property for the Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross, the purchase and initial development of the riverfront property now developed as the Wickliffe Riverport, the Beech Grove Road project, the new Wickliffe City Park, and many more city improvements. He also served on the non-profit Fort Jefferson Cross Committee, assisting in raising the funds to erect and maintain the Cross at Fort Jefferson Park overlooking the Mississippi River, at Wickliffe.
He retired from public life in 1989, but remained active until shortly before his death, enjoying his grandkids and great-grandkids, on the family farm on “Pea Ridge,” traveling, reading, politics, University of Kentucky Wildcat Basketball, and (this year!) University of Louisville Cardinal Basketball!
He is survived by his three children, Larry Kelley and wife Kim of Wickliffe, Judy Adams, and Carol Kelley, both of Carlisle County; six grandchildren, Shar Etebar and wife Kim, Kimia Othick and husband Matt, Malaika Ashworth and husband Sam, Molly McCabe and husband Kevin, Kolleen Kelley and Breathitt Kelley; two stepgrandchildren, Kelly Todd and Ashley Kick. He is also survived by eleven great-grandchildren, Shayan Etebar, Ronan Etebar, Chase Othick, Layla Othick, Kylie Claire McCabe, Malea Rhea, Mattie Rhea, Brinsley Ashworth, Noah Kelley, Jade Kelley, and Kaya Kelley; five stepgreat-grandchildren, Avery Kick, Parker Todd, Hunter Todd, Bridgett Ashworth, and Alfie Ashworth; and by Betty May Ferrell Kelley, his former wife and longtime friend and companion.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John M. and Cleo Kelley of Carlisle County; a sister, Helen Drysdale; a brother, R. L. Kelley, a grandson, Shane Umberger; a nephew, Drew Drysdale; and by his former wife and mother of his three children, Dorothy Gibson “Memo” Kelley.
A celebration of the life of Keith Kelley will take place at Milner and Orr Funeral Home in Bardwell Sunday, April 28, 2013, with visitation beginning at noon and funeral services at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Frank Queen officiating. Burial will follow in Roselawn Cemetery.
Friends are requested to make a donation, in lieu of flowers, to: Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross, 970 Jones Road, La Center, KY 42056.
You may leave a message of sympathy and light a candle of remembrance at www.milnerandorr.com.