LaVerne Kelly, a retired public schools music counselor, died of a lung ailment April 22 at her son's Baltimore home. The Columbia resident was 83.
Born LaVerne Beal Young in Sebrell, Va., she was the daughter of John P. Young and Leah Young, who was named the state of Virginia's first African-American Mother of the Year in 1952.
Family members said the farm where she was born was on a portion of the Nottoway Indian reservation. She was an enrolled citizen of the Nottoway Indian tribe of Virginia.
As a child, she exhibited musical talent. She attended a one-room school and was the class valedictorian at the Southampton County Training School. She received an academic scholarship to Virginia State University and earned a degree in music education and English. She later studied at the University of Maine and at the Peabody Conservatory.
In 1952, Mrs. Kelly was hired as an early African-American music counselor in 11 Baltimore County elementary schools.
"These were known as 'colored' schools and had never before had a music counselor," said her son, Rufus G. "Rick" Kelly III of Baltimore. He said she was assigned to Towson's Carver Elementary. She was also associated with Fleming Elementary School.
She later taught in Montgomery County at Stone Gate School in Silver Spring. She was also a music resource teacher at Baltimore's Calloway Elementary School. She retired in 1996.
While in Baltimore County, Mrs. Kelly composed a song for the Teachers Association of Baltimore County when the two formerly segregated teachers' groups united. The song included the names of the past presidents of both associations.
"My mother had the honor of conducting the music at their inaugural integrated banquet," her son said.
She lived in Windsor Hills and was organist and choir director at the Forest Park Presbyterian Church. In 1969, she and her family moved to Columbia's Village of Oakland Mills.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Vaughn Greene Chapel, 8728 Liberty Road in Randallstown.
In addition to her son, survivors include a daughter, Kimberly A. Kelly of Columbia; and a sister, Joyce Y. Bowman of Upper Marlboro. Her husband of 40 years, Rufus G. Kelly Jr., a teacher, died in 1994.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun