Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017
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Mark S. Kelly (1926-2017)

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BOWLING GREEN — Mark S. Kelly, who led the bands of Bowling Green State University on the football field and concert stage for nearly 28 years, died Monday in assisted living at Brookdale Bowling Green. He was 91. 

He was in declining health and moved to the facility about six months ago, his daughter Karen Kelly said.

“Saddened by the loss of Mark Kelly, Director of Bands Emeritus,” BGSU President Mary Ellen wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “‘The Chief's’ legacy lives on through Kelly Hall, the Kelly Band Scholarship, and through the lives and careers of the hundreds of Falcons he taught and mentored.”

Mr. Kelly conducted the symphonic band in his last concert as BGSU director of bands in April, 1994. His BGSU career began in August, 1966. After his retirement, BGSU trustees named the Moore Musical Arts Center instrumental rehearsal hall in his honor. In 1995, the Ohio Music Education Association named him outstanding music educator and the National Band Association named him one of the 10 most outstanding music directors in the United States.

At BGSU’s homecoming last month, he attended the alumni band rehearsal, as always, his daughter said.

“That was his life. He was a band director, educator,” said his daughter, a retired band director at Van Wert High School. “Any time that would have been filled with a hobby, he was pursuing and following the interests and the careers of the students who came through the school of music.”

His successor, Bruce Moss, wrote Mr. Kelly a letter of thanks several  years ago.

“I just wanted him to know a lot of what he did has lasted and meant a lot to me and carries forward,” said Mr. Moss, BGSU director of band activities. Mr. Moss said he learned from Mr. Kelly as a friend and by studying his BGSU legacy.

“The most important thing I learned maybe didn’t have to do with music, but had to do with caring for individuals and training students to go out and be band directors and have good ethics,” Mr. Moss said.

The public most often connected Mr. Kelly with the marching band, his daughter said. The symphonic band under his direction through the decades was invited to perform at state, regional, and national music educators’ conferences.

“What mattered most was the sonority and the balance and the blend, whether the marching band outside or the symphonic band inside,” said his daughter, who played clarinet for him as a BGSU band member. 

He was born Aug. 19, 1926, in Centerville, Iowa, to Lulu and Frank Kelly, and was a 1944 graduate of Centerville High School. He played clarinet in the school bands — which he later led as a teacher at the school for 13 years. He was a Navy veteran of World War II and served in the Pacific Theater. He had stints directing bands at the University of Iowa, from which he had bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

He and his wife, Helen, married June 3, 1951. She died in April, 2007.

Surviving are his daughters Karen Kelly, Martha Jewell, and Barb Hayden, and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be scheduled in the summer of 2018, his family said. Arrangements are by Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green.

The family suggests tributes to the American Bandmasters Association Foundation or the Mark S. Kelly Scholarship or the Helen Kelly Service Above Self Scholarship through the BGSU advancement fund.

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