Veteran became teacher, dean, JFK adviser |
Obituary Stories

Veteran became teacher, dean, JFK adviser

Jay Hilary Kelley, 94, of Greensburg, passed into the hands of our Lord Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.

Hil Kelley was a World War II veteran, a dean at West Virginia University and a science adviser to President John F. Kennedy.

But he is remembered by family as a loving husband, devoted father to nine children and a man with a great sense of humor who loved to laugh.

Jay Hilary Kelley of Greensburg died Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at 94.

“He was very playful. He loved to joke,” said his wife of 64 years, Catherine Holway Kelley.

Daughter Mary Kelley said she has memories of her father putting Lawrence Welk’s show on TV and dancing with his children. “He would polka with us,” she said. “We’d stand on his shoes.”

On the Fourth of July, she said, the former Army officer “would take any opportunity to line us up and march us through the house. He was very patriotic.”

Known as Hil, Mr. Kelley was born in Greensburg in 1920, one of nine children of Ella Marie and Augustine Bernard Kelley. The elder Kelley served as a representative in Congress from 1941 to 1957.

Hil Kelley attended Penn State University, where he earned bachelor of science and doctoral degrees in mining engineering.

During his career, he ran a consulting business, worked at Ford Motor Co., taught at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was dean of the College of Mineral and Energy Resources at West Virginia University.

During World War II, Mr. Kelley was a lieutenant and captain in the Army’s 51st Combat Engineers and took part in the Normandy invasion and Battle of the Bulge. When the war ended, he served in the occupation government in Germany, supervising census and reconstruction efforts.

Hil and Catherine Kelley were married in 1950 after a three-month courtship, which the family said was encouraged by Kennedy, then a congressman and mutual friend.

Kennedy was in Congress with Augustine Kelley and had served in the Navy with Catherine Kelley’s first husband, Leonard Thom. Thom, who was executive officer of the PT-109 which Kennedy commanded, was killed in an automobile accident in 1946.

When Kennedy became president in 1961, he appointed Mr. Kelley as an adviser to the White House’s office of science and technology policy.

Mr. Kelley was preceded in death by son Hilary Gerard and daughter Christine Thom; brothers Regis, Robert, Richard and Paul; and sister Kathleen.

He is survived by his wife, Catherine; daughters, Kitty Nutter and Mary, Joyce Ann, Michele Maureen and Sheila Roseline Kelley; sons, Leonard and Patrick; brother, James; sisters, Theresa and Marcy; 17 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday in Our Lady of Grace Church, Hempfield.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or [email protected].

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