December 18, 2014

Robert E. Kelly

Robert E. Kelly of Woods Hole died May 27 at the age of 70. Dr. Kelly was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, on August 6, 1936, one of six children born to Margaret and Leon Kelly. Known as Doc, Dr. Kelly displayed early on an interest in learning and athleticism, earning a football scholarship to Northwestern University, where he played for the legendary coach Ara Parsegian. He continued his education at the University of Pittsburgh, where he received a doctorate in anatomy and cell biology. Dr. Kelly’s curiosity and love of the unknown led him to take trips to Mexico, Africa, Spain, Portugal, and Belize.

His career path led to teaching and research biology, and his work on smooth muscle and cancer was published and later recognized as a major research effort. He had a passion for teaching, and tried to make anatomy easier to learn, using different techniques to make the material more understandable and memorable. When not teaching or in the laboratory, Dr. Kelly played rugby for the Pittsburgh Rugby Club, and for Dartmouth College and Tulane University. In 1972, he was one of three founders of the Chicago Griffins Rugby Club, one of four teams remaining in the national tournament. More than 30 years ago, his travels brought him to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, where he discovered and pursued an interest in ocean fishing, and obtained his captain’s vessel license. He also took up painting, while maintaining his scientific and research endeavors.

In 1996, he made Woods Hole his permanent home after retiring from the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He participated in a number of archaeological digs around the world and on four continents. He became a student again, and received a master’s degree in archeology from Harvard at the age of 63. At the time of his death, Dr. Kelly was in the process of publishing a book on human evolution. In 1998, he and two friends purchased the former Century Irish Pub on Locust Street in Falmouth, renaming it Grumpy’s Pub after Dr. Kelly’s grandfather, who was known as Grumps. His grandfather’s likeness was used on the roadside sign for the bar. In addition to his wife, Connie Kelly, he leaves two brothers, Jack and Dick Kelly; two sisters, Pat Kelly-Zaehler and Jean Schaefer; and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life will be held at 3:30 PM on Sunday at Grumpy’s Pub, 29 Locust Street, Falmouth.

Reprinted with permission from The Falmouth Enterprise.