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Richard M. 'Dick' Kelly, former city HIV/AIDS program administrator and YMCA executive, dies

Richard M. “Dick” Kelly, former HIV/AIDS program administrator for the city Health Department who earlier had been a longtime Young Men’s Christian Association of Greater Baltimore executive, died April 3 at Gilchrist Center Towson from a brain injury suffered in a fall. The Roland Park resident was 83.

“Dick was a multitalented man who ushered in change when he came to the Y,” said Bernice DiMichael of Silver Spring, who worked with Mr. Kelly during the 1970s, when he was her supervisor.

Thomas Macy Kelly was born in Hawaii and raised on the campus of Haverford (Pa.) College, where his father, Thomas R. Kelly was a professor, and after his death, he moved with his mother, Lael Macy Kelly, to the Westtown School, a private school, in West Chester, Pa., where his mother was a dietitian and librarian.

After graduating from the preparatory school in 1954, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1958 in philosophy from Haverford.

He began his YMCA career in the mid-1950s in Philadelphia, and subsequently held posts in Reading, Pa., where he supervised urban programs and developed a pilot program in YMCA student work as director of the intercollegiate branch.

During his tenure in Reading in the 1960s, Mr. Kelly worked with city and local colleges. He was known for his expertise in working with teenagers and young adults.

Before being named president of the YMCA of Greater Baltimore in 1974, Mr. Kelly in the 1960s had been associate general executive and director of the Maryland division of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

While there, he supervised five branches in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and had been planning director for the association. He later had been executive director of the Bowie and Westminster branches.

At Bowie, he helped develop a youth employment program, “worked with schools and communities during the integration process, and developed an unusual counselor-in-training program for day camps which has been adopted by a number of other associations,” The Evening Sun reported at the time of his 1974 appointment.

“When he came to Baltimore, it was a time of trouble for the Y,” Ms. DiMichael recalled. “He brought in a lot of regulations, strong management and it made the Y stronger. He also committed it to the community. He helped make it grow.”

When he resigned in 1981, he told The Sun he had decided to “pursue other personal interests.”

During the 1980s, Mr. Kelly was executive director of the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council, while an adjunct faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Applied Behavioral Sciences.

He later was named president of the Maryland Mental Health Association and vice president of the National Mental Health Association.

Mr. Kelly’s last professional assignment was during the 1990s as program manager of HIV and AIDS Services and administrator of preventive medicine and epidemiology for the city Health Department. He retired from that job in 2000.

“His work in the Baltimore’s Health Department during the 1990s contributed to the formation of what later became Behavioral Health System of Baltimore Inc.,” according to a biographical profile of Mr. Kelly furnished by his family.

While working there, Mr. Kelly met and fell in love with Gail Williams, a health professional, whom he married in 2016.

He re-engaged with Quakerism after moving to Vassalboro, Maine, in 2000, where he served for four years as clerk of the Vassalboro Friends Meeting.

Mr. Kelly had many interests. He enjoyed singing folk songs, playing his guitar, conducting genealogical research, and writing.

He wrote “Thomas Kelly: A Biography,” which was published in 1966 by Harper & Row, about his father, Thomas R. Kelly, who was a Quaker mystic, and edited “The Eternal Promise,” a collection of his father’s religious writings.

“He had been drawn to his father’s writings,” said Kathleen Wilson, who lives in the city’s Lake-Walker neighborhood, who began a friendship with Mr. Kelly after she had written about his father in 2012. “He responded, and we became friends. He was a most interesting man.”

Mr. Kelly also was the author of “Three Ravens and Two Widows: A Perspective on Controversy Among Friends,” about his mother and grandmother, Madora Kersey, that was published in 2009 by Pendle Hill Publications.

He left two unpublished works, “Life is What We Have: Metaphor and Footnotes,” a “window into his approach to life” according to the profile, and “Summer Home,” recollections of life in Brightwater, Maine, and nearby Phippsburg, which is on the west bank of the Kennebec River.

Mr. Kelly was an accomplished builder, whether it was boats or furniture or model trains, planes and ships. He was also an artist, stained-glass maker, actor, opera buff and Bible teacher.

He had been a member of Phippsburg’s Historic Preservation Committee, and during the 2000s, he and the Macy Family Band performed at locations in Phippsburg.

Reflecting on his life, Mr. Kelly wrote: “My education is eclectic. I love and have studied (and to some extent practiced) philosophy, history, community organization, business administration epidemiology, folk music, naval architecture, group development, historic residential architecture, applied behavioral science and genealogy.”

He added: “My view on life reflects this generalist perspective. I decry the strong tendency to pigeonhole and label folks. Life is filled with many differing points of view, differing disciplines. We can learn from all of them.”

Plans for a memorial service later this year at Homewood Friends Meeting in Baltimore are incomplete.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Kelly is survived by three sons, John Kelly of Westminster, Tom Kelly of Brunswick, Maine, and Paul Kelly of Beverly, Mass.; two stepsons, Paul Crawford of Vassalboro and Garreth Williams of New York City; a stepdaughter, Melissa Williams of Baltimore; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

His marriage to the former Mary Nell Miller ended in divorce. His second wife, the former Elaine Crawford, died in 2015.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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