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October 7, 2012

Half-century of helping

After 50 years, Kelley steps down as coach at Boys and Girls Club


“There was no hanging out, no going to The Loop or to friends’ houses because he’d ask where you’re going, who lives there and who’s going to be there. We had our battles, but I never won,” Carlos Nunez said.

Carlos Nunez, a social worker for the Department of Family Services, is grateful for everything Kelley did for him and his brother.

“It helped me to stay focused and do the best I could athletically and academically,” he said. “He instilled work ethics. We wouldn’t have made it so far if it wasn’t for Steve ... I could have gone anywhere, but I wanted to come back and work in the community because of what I went through in my life and how the club helped me.”

Carlos’ brother, Raymond Nunez, 30, said Kelley went above and beyond his job when he took him and his brother into his house.

“It takes a person like Steve with an incredible heart to open his home for others. He treats everyone like if they were his own children,” said Raymond Nunez, in-house instructor of the Lawrence Alternative Suspension program at the Bruce School. Raymond Nunez was also a poor student, and Kelley provided a tutor at the club, along with words of encouragement.

After graduating from Central Catholic, Raymond Nunez went to Tufts University on scholarship.

“I’m indebted for what he has done for me and my family,” said Raymond Nunez, who is now head basketball coach at Lawrence High School.

His optimism

When not in the gym shooting hoops with boys and girls, Kelley roams the halls of the club and is stopped by kids who hug him, give him high-fives or simply say, “Hello Viejo” (Spanish word for old man).

Born in Lawrence, Kelley grew up on Abbott Street in South Lawrence. He attended St. Patrick Elementary School and graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1965. He thought of becoming a priest and joined the seminary. After a change of heart, he enrolled at Merrimack College, but left because he could not afford the $2,000 tuition. Kelley went on to graduate from University of Massachusetts at Lowell with a degree in sociology and psychology. Kelley and his wife, Sonya have two boys, Andrew, 9 and John, 6, - and thousands of other children who think of him as dad.

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