George F. Kelly

George Fleming Kelly, a longtime resident of Woods Hole, avid birdwatcher, and active conservationalist who worked for 33 years in the National Marine Fisheries Service, died at the JML Care Center in Falmouth on June 19. He was 95.

Mr. Kelly was born in Irvington, New Jersey, in 1918. He was the son of William and Lizzie Kelly, who came to the US from Scotland in 1912.

After graduating from Irvington High School, he received a bachelor of science in biology from Seton Hall University in 1941. He then worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution before joining the US Marine Corps in 1942.

Mr. Kelly served for three and a half years during World War II. During that time, he was a communications officer aboard the USS WASP aircraft carrier in the South Pacific.

After his military service, he attended Cornell University, where he received his master of science in biology in 1947. While attending Cornell, Mr. Kelly met Mary Ella Beetham. They were married in 1950 at the Union Church in Waban. His wife’s grandfather was Maynard M. Metcalf, a trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory from 1896 to 1932, and she had spent many summers in Woods Hole.

Mr. Kelly’s passion for preserving commercial fishing areas and coastal waters led him back to Woods Hole. He worked for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, which was later known as the National Marine Fisheries Service, as a fisheries biologist from 1950 to 1983. He worked with the International Commission for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, and reviewed proposals for the dredging and filling of coastal areas and the discharging of waste materials in coastal waters.

He was actively involved in the Falmouth community. He was a member of the Falmouth Conservation Commission from 1967 to 1985, serving as chairman from 1973 to 1977. He frequently corresponded with the Enterprise on matters of conservation. He also was a Town Meeting member.

Mr. Kelly had a lifelong association with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania, and was a longtime member of Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries in Falmouth. An experienced birder, he often kept track of the birds he saw, among them an immature bald eagle in 1994.

“I’ve kept notes rather religiously and send the noteworthy ones to New England Bird Record,” Mr. Kelly told the Enterprise in May 1967.

Mr. Kelly also enjoyed beachcombing, attending flea markets, and going to antique shows.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Kelly leaves his sons, William M. Kelly of Goshen and George F. Kelly Jr. of Falmouth.

Services were held privately. Burial was held in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.


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    To the Kelly Family: My thoughts and prayers are with you. George was a great guy and friend. I only just now learned of his passing and had hoped to get down to see him again this summer. I was just a young fishery biologist when I first met George at the lab in 1963. He was always upbeat and encouraging to me. He was easy to work with and talk to. A committed biologist, he was a credit to the NMFS and the research effort on red fish among many other duties. He and I communicated on dredging and ocean disposal impacts when I worked for the New England Division Army Corps of Engineers. He also assisted in the administrative work when I contracted underwater submersible time for a RI Sound Survey in 1975 from the NOAA Manned Undersea Science and Technology Program. Always a smile, sense of humor and willingness to help. I enjoyed talking and being with him. Gib Chase