Roger Owen Kelly of
Chesterton, Indiana, passed away at his home October 23, 2015, well into his
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.
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
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.
is Wednesday, October 28, 2015, from 4-8 p.m., at Edmonds & Evans Funeral
Home, 517 Broadway, Chesterton, Indiana, 46304.
services will take place Thursday, October 29, 2015. Burial will be at
Chesterton Cemetery. Donations in lieu of flowers to Wounded Warrior