DANSVILLE — No one loved this community more than World War Two Veteran William “Bill” Kelly.
After spending 70 years in the Dansville Rotary Club, employing most of Dansville at the Kelly Brothers Nurseries, and being a proud member of The Monuments Men in the war it is time to say goodbye to a community treasure.
Bill Kelly as he was called by his many many friends was a pillar of the town, and he invested his heart and soul into making his hometown proud.
Bill passed away peacefully at his home on Nov. 6 at the age of 97. In his nine decades on this earth he achieved more than most. He went on to join the armed forces after getting a BS from Cornell University. Bill’s military services were very significant. In fact, George Clooney and Matt Damon made a movie about it called “The Monuments Men” in which Bill and 40 others were assigned to guard the ancient salt mines Austria with famous artwork. You can see a special interview by him on the 2015 DVD of “The Monuments Men.”
Bill returned home after a long military career to be part of his community. He married his sweetheart, Dolly McFadden Kelly, and had three children; Marie Sullivan, Bob Kelly, and Patrick Kelly. Dolly was the love of his life for 60 years. Bill was a longtime member of the Union Hose Company and Dansville Rotary Club.
Rotarian Jon Shay said, “Kelly was the barometer by which Rotarians measured themselves. He was a fine gentleman and meant a great deal to the club and the community. We all will miss him.”
Bill was also a longtime member of St. Mary’s Church, Dansville American Legion, Knights of Columbus, and was president of Kelly Brothers Nurseries. The nursery employed most of Dansville’s youth in the summertime from 1949 to 1985. Kelly Brothers was founded in 1880 and closed its doors in 1985.
Bill was many things to so many, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a mentor, and a kind-hearted soul.
Mayor Peter Vogt said that Bill was a longtime businessman and pillar of the community.
“Bill was a longtime businessman, and pillar of the community,” he said. “I knew him through the paper. I interviewed him once for an article about his experiences during World War Two. I also knew him a longtime member of the Rotary Club.”
Vogt said Bill’s name was mentioned a lot throughout his life. Although, Vogt didn’t grow up knowing Bill personally he always knew him as a strong and kind businessman.
“Bill did a lot for his community, and he served his country well,” he said. “Last year we celebrated his many years in the Rotary. He certainly did a lot for this community.”
The Dansville Rotary Club plans on saying their goodbyes to a great man at the wake on Nov. 11 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Hindle Funeral Home. A funeral for Bill will be held Nov. 12 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Church followed by a burial service. Dansville American Legion will provide a lunch after the funeral service.
Bill was a true member of The Greatest Generation, and he will be greatly missed by the entire community he called home.