Chesterton Tribune



Visitation Wednesday for Roger Owen Kelly, age 91

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Roger Owen Kelly of Chesterton, Indiana, passed away at his home October 23, 2015, well into his 91st year.

Roger was born in Leesburg, Indiana on February 3rd of 1924 to Robert Louie and Ruth Evalyn Kelly, both of whom have passed. Five years later, his brother, Alan C. Kelly was born. He, too, has passed.

As a young boy, Rogerís gifts as a musical artist took him weekly on the train from his home in Warsaw, Indiana, to downtown Chicago to study the bass violin with the first chair of the Chicago Symphony every Friday. After his lessons, while waiting for the train to return home, he immersed himself in the emerging Jazz scene in the local Jazz clubs where he hung out with the big Jazz and Swing names of the day. As his talents grew, he had the privilege of attending the famous Petrie Band Camp at Winona Lake, Indiana on scholarship each summer throughout his attendance at Warsaw High School in Warsaw, Indiana. The camp was staffed with some of the most notable Orchestra and Band Leaders and Composers of the era. He started sitting in and playing for extended periods with, among others, Les Brown and His Orchestra (His Band of Renown) and the Glen Miller Orchestra for performances, and Leonard Bernstein for composing sessions. He quickly became a card carrying Bass Violinist who was regularly called upon to step in for unavailable band members with many of the well known Jazz and Swing bands of the time.

In September of 1942, he enrolled in Manchester College to study Music and Music Education. His college career came to an abrupt halt, however, with the beginning of World War II. Just one semester into his education, he enlisted on his 19th birthday. He ultimately was transported by the Queen Mary to be stationed at Prestwick, Scotland and serve on the European front. His military career included operating the Teletype, Marksmanship, Cadence Musician for marching training, weather reconnaissance, and supervising weather recon missions. Shortly before V-E day he was injured by a mid-air missile during a mission over Berlin. He was sent home to the United States to complete his military career. He was a recipient of the Eame Theatre Medal during his service. He completed his service as a Corporal in the 1321St Army Airways Communication System Squadron on September 26, 1945. He remained connected to the Military through his membership with American Legion Post 0172 until his death. Upon returning to the States after his service in WWII, he completed his education at Manchester College on the GI Bill, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Music. He also continued to play with the Les Brown Orchestra until work and school made it impossible.

On December 17, 1943, he married Lois Eleanor Kelly who survives. Together they had a family of seven children.

Their sons, Galen S. Kelly and Kenneth M. Kelly precede him in death.

Cindi M. Kelly-Williams. Renee M. Kelly, Susan Kelly-Johnson (John), David M. Kelly (Linda), and Karl M. Kelly (Cindy) survive. He is also survived by 13 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Throughout his teaching career, he shared his love of music with students across Northern Indiana. From Eaton, Etna Green, Jefferson County, to Chesterton where he spent the huge majority of his teaching and directing career, he brought innovation to the community. In Jefferson County, he started their first middle school marching band and Cub and Boy Scout troops. In 1960, he brought his talents to Chesterton as the Music Director. At CHS, his creative fund raising projects lead to new uniforms for the Marching Band. He was passionate about the idea of teaching difficult concepts through music and play and enjoyed using these principles with young elementary students who openly received his methods. He spent the majority of his career sharing concepts in nature and science through music and song at Yost Elementary School in Porter, Indiana. He also continued to contribute to the Trojan Guard Marching Band during his years as an elementary music teacher. He taught square dance in the communities where he lived and could be found calling square dance in the class room and the local Westchester Community Hall. He was a Champion Roller Skater as a youngster and taught social dance on skates at the local roller rink.

During the time he was a Music teacher, he always maintained jobs outside of the school system. This included work as a Park Ranger for the Indiana Dunes State Park and as Director of the Burns Harbor Park. He was well known for bringing innovative and engaging new programs to each of the places he chose to work. He retired from teaching in August 1990. In December he was often seen wearing a Santa Claus suit sharing the Christmas spirit with young children. On top of his musical talents, he was an artist in many mediums. He loved photography and woodworking. He was a photographer for his High School Year Book and throughout his life enjoyed photographing family and nature as he found it. As a craftsman, he made furniture, dishware, and toys. His love of the sciences could be seen in his support and encouragement of science fair projects with his grandchildren. He was active in the Boy Scouts of America throughout his life. He achieved the rank of Life Scout as a young man. As an adult, he was an Assistant Scout Master and Scout Master with Troops 628 and 29 in Chesterton for many years. He was a member of the Scouting National Honor Society and Order of the Arrow. Being a universal blood donor, he regularly donated blood to the Red Cross his entire adult life until no longer medically capable.

Public visitation is Wednesday, October 28, 2015, from 4-8 p.m., at Edmonds & Evans Funeral Home, 517 Broadway, Chesterton, Indiana, 46304.

Private family services will take place Thursday, October 29, 2015. Burial will be at Chesterton Cemetery. Donations in lieu of flowers to Wounded Warrior Project,



Posted 10/26/2015




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