Water Closet for March 11, 2016
[pullquote]”For years Bob memorized and then regaled friends with long classic story poems with a flair for which those with Irish genes are famous.”[/pullquote] Bob Kelley of Middleton died Wednesday, March 2, at the age of 88. He and Rita, his feisty wife of 63 years who died in 2013, were pied pipers in Middleton and beyond. This lively couple hiked, climbed, paddled, and danced on both sides of the Atlantic and across the continent for fifty years. The old Closeteer’s sister who danced with many men at his son’s wedding reception said Bob was the best dancer. For forty years Rita walked the three miles around Middleton Pond almost daily with the old Closeteer’s late wife and other women friends now dead. Right up until her last years Rita often set a pace too fast for the other walkers and even for herself at times. Bob sometimes hiked with them.
Even in his seventies he could have swum around the perimeter of the pond. He won over a hundred medals at New England Swimming Club’s old timer events. On visits, the lifelong athlete from schools in Dorchester and on, would haul his swimming awards out to show us. One long trial Bob and Rita endured and survived much impressed their friends and family. They joined son Steven as he hiked the Appalachian Trail from end to end in two summers. His parents in their 60s, who had not practiced enough, bravely did long sections with him. After they vividly told us tales of crossing overflowing rivers in Maine and long steep climbs into cold weather for which they were not equipped.
For years Bob memorized and then regaled friends with long classic story poems with a flair for which those with Irish genes are famous. At parties he would recite to amazed groups Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “ One Hoss Shay”. In his prime he could entertain in this old fashioned way for long periods with enthusiasm and excitement. Times were not dull at Bob and Rita’s lively get-togethers. Guests came away richer than when they arrived. Often this would include having heard one of Bob’s own poems.
The old Closeteer remembers being worried for his non-swimming wife’s life as Kelleys and friends paddled up a wide Essex crick at high tide. A stiff breeze had suddenly sprung up blowing wave caps over the bows. The group was returning from a day of clamming, swimming, and sun burning on the backside of Crane Beach. That exciting paddle home was foam-on-the-cake for the Kelleys. The non-swimmer, while stoic, later swore never to go again on a Kelley water adventure. She and husband should have known. For decades they’d heard such stories about Kelley paddles including a long jaunt on the Allagash River, Maine. But later they were glad because of the tales they had to tell.
While this seemingly non stop activity was going the Kelleys raised four children and helped with grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. In addition they were stalwarts in town government, clubs, and church work.
This piece, about Bob, could not be told without Rita, they were a true team in all things. We who admired them hope they might be resting together somewhere. They certainly aren’t resting in our memories.
Some day during this warm week, now the ice is well out, the old Closeteer plans to paddle on the Ipswich River in the fine canoe the Kelleys gave him when their canoeing days were over. He will imagine Bob swimming alongside reciting an original poem about adventure on some cold mountain stream.
Note: Please see Robert E. Kelley, Middleton, MA, obituary for more information.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Dec||Jan||Feb||Mar|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.12||3.40||3.25||4.65|
|2015/2016 Central Watershed Actual||4.72||3.31||2.5**||0.9**as of Mar 7|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For March 7, 2016 Normal . . . 110 CFS Current Rate . . . 61 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Jan.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for Feb and March.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584