ANDOVER — Years ago, I was thinking: What would I write if Mr. Kelley died?
That may sound morbid, but not really for a newspaper man. That’s what we do.
I’d write about Ed’s marriage to Ann, a marriage filled with extraordinary love and sacrifice, joy and pain.
I’d write about his three boys, who he loved so much, and the special relationship he had with his grandchildren Micky, Emma, Talan, Ryan and Meghan.
But then in September of 2011, his middle son, Dick Kelley, was diagnosed with ALS.
Mr. Kelley went from a man I admired, to one I was in awe of.
He’d travel the 40 miles from Andover to Dick’s place in Boston daily to care for him, to love him, to let him know once again that family always comes first. It was a 10-hour day and Ed was nearly 80, but he never complained. Not once.
Pete Thamel, then of Sports Illustrated, wrote a brilliant piece on Dick, the longtime sports information director at Boston College.
I can never forget one line from the story.
“(Ed) leaves around 8 p.m., sometimes with tears streaming down his face so hard on the ride home that he has to pull over for a few minutes.”
That’s the man I’ll remember. He died Tuesday at age 83. Simply put, it was from a broken heart.
Ann, his wife of 55 years, died in the spring after a long fight with cancer and Dick succumbed to ALS in 2014.
He did everything he could to make their final months in Ann’s case, and years in Dick’s case, happy.
I knew he’d outlive his ailing son and his ailing wife. The caregiver in him made sure of it.
Mr. Kelley delighted telling the story if Ted and his wife Carrie ever got divorced, it was Ted who would no longer be welcome in the house! He, and everyone else, would howl.
But he knew better than anyone what it meant to have a special spouse. Ann was lovely, inside and out, and a true scholar, graduating No. 2 in her class from what is now UMass Lowell.
JUST NEEDED CHANCE
Mr. Kelley’s father knew someone at UMass Lowell who skeptically said he’d give Ed a chance.
“One chance,” he was warned, with the expectation being that he wouldn’t make it.
That sounds silly now. He was a great middle school teacher in Lowell who loved the classroom and impacting lives.
After a stint in the military, he returned to college in his mid-20s and outworked everyone. To get his degree and to get that special girl from Lawrence, Ann Daley.
Not surprisingly for a sportswriter, I was always a sports nut. So I was on cloud 9 shortly after graduating from Andover High that I met Ted Kelley and E.J. Perry, younger Andover High students destined for athletic greatness.
I remember coming home from St. Michael’s College, unable to find a ride to the other side of town. Next thing I know, Mr. Kelley swings by the old Valle’s Steak House on Rte. 93 and says, “Hop in.”
As he let me out at home, he said with an earnestness that set me aback, “You’re Teddy’s friend. You ever need a ride, you ever need anything, you call me.”
The other time I recalled hearing “You’re Teddy’s friend” we were driving home one of Ted’s teammates from the famed Boston Amateur Basketball Club (AAU) team. Greg Simpson was a super-smooth point guard from the meanest streets of Roxbury.
It was about 9 p.m. after a long practice on a cold winter night. Mr. Kelley insisted upon driving home “Captain Smooth” as the playground legend with the full scholarship to Northeastern was known. It was well out of his way but he was Teddy’s friend.
As we got nearer to his home in the projects, Simpson insisted, “Mr. Kelley, ‘Drop me here.’”
Mr. Kelley would have none of that. Teddy’s friends were dropped at their front door. But Simpson said this was a dangerous area and the Kelleys had already done too much. It didn’t matter. Greg Simpson was going to be dropped at his front door.
To this day, for a kid from Andover, I don’t know if I have ever been so scared.
He was quite the story teller, and as a writer I appreciated how Mr. Kelley always had just the right amount of hyperbole. If Ted scored 30 points, a few years later it was always 40!
The boys were all different but he and Mrs. Kelley loved them all equally.
Ted was the 6-foot-5 gifted athlete with the burning desire, just like his old man, to prove people wrong.
How could a kid from Andover play in the legendary Big East against Patrick Ewing and Pearl Washington and Ed Pinckney?
That was his goal and his father just said “hit the books, be a good person, and give ‘em the pump fake, they’ll jump to the moon every time!”
Mr. Kelley would drive Ted hundreds of miles a week to Boston, Providence, Manchester for games or practices. Often it was after teaching school in Lowell and painting houses as a second job. That’s what Lowell kids did, they outworked you.
Dick was the brainy one with the top grades, the biting sarcasm and the heart of gold. He loved BC and BC loved him.
Patrick is probably closest to Mr. Kelley personality-wise. A tough guy formerly related by marriage to the great Lowell boxer Micky Ward. He is a popular instructor at Title Boxing Club in North Andover.
COACH AT HEART
Mr. Kelley knew his sports, particularly baseball and basketball. He coached at Andover High, Lowell High, Merrimack College and Northern Essex. One of his great memories was coaching Methuen’s Steve Bedrosian, the future Cy Young Award winner.
He knew Ted could dominate inside in high school but, to go places, he had to have guard skills. Mr. Kelley had put up a hoop on the garage and without any prompting, Ted wore out net after net, honing his skills.Ted is from Andover, but he has a little blue-collar Lowell in him, too.
A towering teammate, probably inadvertently, said something about a family member that rubbed Ted the wrong way.
Ted, just a BC freshman at the time, was in his far bigger, far older, star teammate’s face in an instant.
“If you ^&*# ever speak about my family ...”
Family always comes first.
And if you were in Ed Kelley’s family, biological or extended, you were a very lucky person indeed.
E-mail Michael Muldoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calling hours: Friday, 4-7 p.m., Conte Funeral Home, Florence Street, Andover. Mass: Saturday, 9 a.m., St. Augustine’s Church, Andover. Burial at West Parish Cemetery to follow.