June 2018 Volume 15

Robert R. Kelly Obituary

Joel Kelly
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Robert Anthony Kelly passed away peacefully in his sleep Saturday, May 5th, 2018. Robert was born on February 21st, 1956, in Whitfield Town, Kingston, Jamaica, where he lived until immigrating to the United States in 1973.

His parents, Septimus and Gloria Kelly, who have predeceased him, enrolled Robert and his siblings in Greenwich Primary School. Robert then went on to attend Kingston College from 1967 to 1973.

Robert earned a B.A. in Government from Western New England College in May 1977. He attended graduate school at John Jay College for Criminal Justice. While researching his thesis titled, "Immigration Law – A Tool of US Foreign Policy" in Jamaica, he met his future wife Petrolin. He started at Western New England College School of Law in 1979 while simultaneously joining Liberty Mutual as an underwriter in Boston.

Committed to his education, he commuted daily between Springfield and Boston, a distance of 90 miles roundtrip. While in law school, Robert and his good friend Victor Douglas led the local chapter of the Black Law School Student Association (BLSA). Under their leadership they increased minority student enrollment, pushed for the hiring of minority professors, and brought greater awareness of social issues to the community at-large.

After receiving his Juris Doctorate from law school he worked as Affirmative Action Director for the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts until 1984 when he went into business for himself. Robert started a real estate development and management company with his wife Petrolin, called ARK Enterprises. The company revitalized neighborhoods throughout the city of Springfield, creating affordable housing opportunities for hundreds of local families. During the late 80’s and early 90’s, ARK Enterprises was one of the largest minority owned real estate holding companies in Western Massachusetts.

A longtime member of the Springfield Church of God, (formally Celestial Praise) where Robert served for a time as President of the Men’s Fellowship group in the church, he was the founder of the Georgianna Memorial Scholarship, a college scholarship he created in memory of his late niece. Robert was also a noted tax preparer for more than 30 years for friends, family, and many minority small businesses in Springfield.

Robert reconnected with his alma mater, Kingston College, through his mentor Foggy Burrows, while doing research for his graduate school thesis. Burrows encouraged him to recommit to Kingston College through mentorship of its current students. From that day Robert looked to impact and increase the role of the New York Chapter of this young alumni association with his

involvement and vision for the future. He wanted the organization to embody his life’s motto, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” He joined the alumni board and executed two terms as President of the Association, 1991-94 and 2006-11. Robert increased membership, engaged many generations of alumni, and raised the profile of the New York Chapter. He tirelessly fundraised, donated his time, and his personal resources through the KCOBA USA, New York Chapter, to start a nutrition program, renovate the campus, support athletic teams, fund student clubs, supplement former teachers, assist alumni in need, fund student scholarships, and assist young alumni with their continued education following their time at the high-school. He considered his efforts on the behalf of his alma mater his life’s work and dedicated himself in retirement from ARK Enterprise, to continuing these efforts during extended stays in Jamaica in 2010.

Robert leaves behind his wife of 37 years, Petrolin; his siblings, Pauline McCalla, Cordelia Lindsay, Burcaldo Kelly, Horatio Kelly, Everett Kelly, and Septimus Kelly; his two beloved children, Robert Joel and Petrolin Jule Kelly; his nieces, whom he considered daughters, Michelle Kelly and Paulette Kelly; his granddaughter, Genesis Kelly, his cousins; Aloysius

Webley, Bernard Webley, Cecelia Edwards, nieces; nephews; extended family; and many dear friends who he loved and cared for deeply.

Robert will be greatly missed.

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