Robert W. Kelley of Edgartown, who showed his mettle in the foxholes of Europe during World War II, and returned to his hometown where as a longtime officer of Edgartown National Bank he relied on his deep understanding of the Island community in his dealings with customers, died peacefully on the evening of July 7 surrounded by his loving family at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. He was 95.
A prominent Island businessman, Bob served for over 40 years as the Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Edgartown National Bank where he earned a reputation as a gentleman with a firm handshake who understood the needs of real people. His dedication enabled many Islanders to pursue homes and businesses and it was not uncommon for people to say he was the best banker they ever met. Following his retirement, he remained on the Board of Directors and attended the bank’s bi-monthly meetings until the age of 95. Even as his health declined his love of the bank remained strong in his heart.
Born November 6, 1918, Bob was a lifelong Edgartown resident. He attended the Edgartown School and was an all-star athlete. He had a strong interest in baseball, basketball, and, as an adult, golf. He also had a great love of the Boston Red Sox. Win or lose he was an avid fan and he was thrilled when they finally won a World Series in 2004, 86 years after his birth. In his retirement years, he and his sister Louise shared many good times conversing long distance during each game.
As a young man he was the manager of the First National Store on Main Street in downtown Edgartown. In 1944, the Armed Forces called and he enlisted in the Army. After a brief stint at Ft. Devens, he spent four months at Camp Croft, South Carolina, where he trained as a sharpshooter. In May 1944 he was sent overseas to France and then Germany.
On December 2, 1944, he was seriously wounded during a battle in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany, when he was struck by shrapnel from a mortar that exploded near his foxhole. The German attack delayed any effort to evacuate the wounded.
His injuries required extensive hospitalization. Bob received a Purple Heart in late December 1944. Quiet and undemonstrative, Bob never discussed his many days spent in the foxhole. However, he carried the remnants of the shrapnel and the memories of that battle and the suffering of his comrades throughout their ordeal weighed heavily on his mind for the remainder of his life.
The Purple Heart was the second awarded to his family. His older brother, John Kelley, was reported missing after his bomber crashed in Tunisia. One year after the report, the family received the medal. John’s death was the first reported for Edgartown in World War II. The loss of other friends would follow in later months.
Following his honorable discharge from the Army in November 1945, Bob resumed his First National management position. In 1946, he was elected commander of the Martha’s Vineyard Post American Legion and remained a member the rest of his life. Very patriotic, Bob always honored his country, past veterans and present servicemen. The Fourth of July was his favorite holiday.
An active member of the community, Bob was a past treasurer of the Edgartown Boys Club, served as Cemetery Commissioner and longtime member of the Federated Church where he served on the executive board and as a deacon. He was a member of the Edgartown Golf Club and enjoyed many days of golf with friends and colleagues — and he won the summer tournament just prior to his 80th birthday. Bob inherited his love for woodworking and his skills from his father, Clifford “Frank” Kelley. Family, church members, friends and servicemen and women overseas were the recipients of his hand-crafted cribbage boards in distinctive Vineyard style. He always looked forward to a cribbage match be it at the golf club or home and in recent years his Saturday afternoons spent at home with his good friend Leo Cohen. Bob had a passion for classical music and the great outdoors. He loved clamming, gardening, and scalloping.
Bob is survived by his daughters, Shirley Cioffi of Edgartown; Sandra Clark of Connecticut; daughter-in-law, Pamela N. Kelley of Williamstown; cherished grandchildren, Suzanne Cioffi of Edgartown, Brian Cioffi and wife, Kari, of Chilmark; Robin Cioffi Canham of Fairport, N.Y.; Erik Cioffi and his wife, Christina, of Blue Ridge, Georgia; Ethan Kelley and his wife, Linton, of Toronto, Ontario; Emily Kelley Darling and her husband, John, of Bondville, Vermont; Seth Kelley of Williamstown; Adam Clark and his wife, Patha of Seattle, Wash.; Ryan Clark and his wife, Som, of Washington, Conn.; and Joel Clark of Washington, Conn.
Bob was also the great grandfather of Bryce Cioffi; Kelley, Reid and Sydney Canham; Analea and Teagan Cioffi; Isabella Tocci; Gavin Clark and twins Adler and Serene Clark. Bob always looked forward to his “little guy’s” visits as he affectionately called Bryce and the arrival of the Canhams and Cioffis when his house was bustling with activity and laughter. Bob had many nieces and his world traveling nephews, John and Rene’ Garand-Meyer, delighting in the postcards of their adventures and many cousins. He was blessed by his special “angels,” Megan Vasconcelos and her husband, Jon Paul, and daughter, Azarah, Sally Flood and Nancy Holt, community friends and Windemere staff and residents.
Bob was predeceased by his loving wife of 74 years, Dorothy E. (Scott) Kelley; his siblings John, Roland, Edmund, Paul and beloved “little sister” Louise Kelley Garand and her husband, Albert, his very dear friend; his sons Robert W. Kelley Jr. and Jeffrey D. Kelley and great granddaughter, Saige Kelley Cioffi.
Bob will affectionately be remembered for his firm handshake. He never had a harsh word for anyone and was well respected by his community and loved by his family.
A memorial service will be held at the Edgartown Federated Church on Saturday, August 30, at 1:30 pm with the Reverends John D. Schule and Terry O. Martinson officiating. In lieu of flowers donations in his memory may be made to the Edgartown Firemen’s Association, Edgartown Policemen’s Association, Boys and Girls Club or a Vineyard organization of your choice.