October 11, 2010

Robert Kelley, Longtime Vernon Fire Chief, Dies At 75 - Courant.com

Robert Kelley, Longtime Vernon Fire Chief, Dies At 75 - Courant.com

Robert Kelley, Longtime Vernon Fire Chief, Dies At 75
By JESSE LEAVENWORTH, leavenworth@courant.com

October 6, 2010


Robert E. Kelley Jr., a longtime fire chief and a dedicated volunteer and leader, died Monday, October 4th. He was 75.

"He was just a down to earth, community-oriented guy who excelled in the fire service; he loved it to death," said Chris Hammick, the fire department's health and safety officer.

Kelley served as chief from 1986 to 2007. He joined the Rockville Fire Department in 1967, rose through the ranks and was one of the key members who consolidated the Rockville and Vernon volunteer fire departments in 1979.

Kelley worked for years as a manager at the Metropolitan District Commission, retiring in 1989. At the time of his death, he was still working as finance director for Tolland County Mutual Aid Fire Service. Fellow firefighters said Kelley was adept at budgeting and financial issues and always kept the fire department's books in order.

"He was very business oriented — a financial wizard," Fire Chief William Call said.

"I don't think there was a year he was chief that he didn't turn money back in," said Hammick, who was deputy chief under Kelley.

Kelley also was knowledgeable about all aspects of firefighting and what he did not know, he was willing to learn, firefighters said.

"He was a mentor to a lot of people," said Jean Gauthier, the department's director of emergency medical services. "I learned a lot from him."

Local firefighters described Kelley as a natural leader.

"He knew where to put people and what to do — and that's important," said firefighter Carl Schaefer. "Under that pressure, you have to know what you're doing."

Kelley, who is survived by his wife and three children, passed on his enthusiasm for public service — his daughter, Diane Carpenter, is secretary for the fire department, and John Kelley, one of his two sons, is head of Vernon police detectives.

Calling hours are Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Burke-Fortin Funeral Home, 76 Prospect St., Rockville. The funeral will be Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Bernard Church, 25 St. Bernard Terrace, Rockville, with burial to follow at Valley Falls Cemetery, Vernon.

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