John V Kelly (1926 - 2009)
former New Jersey Assemblyman, Bank Executive, Mayor of Nutley
John V Kelly, 83, of Nutley passed away on October 30th,
2009 in Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville.
Mr Kelly was born on July 11, 1926, to Joseph and Mary Silvestri Kelly
on Griffith Street in Jersey City. John got his toughness from his Irish
dad who was signed by the NY Yankees as a catcher and his moral compass
from his old fashion Italian mom, who taught him the importance of being
a good compassionate Christian and to always try to help people. John
would follow his mother’s advice for his entire life.
He attended St Nicholas Grammar school and St Peter’s Prep HS in Jersey
City. Upon graduating from the Prep, Kelly served his country during
WWII as a Staff Sergeant Demolition expert with the US Army in the
Philippines. After returning from the war, John worked nights at the
Erie Railroad docks and the Railway Express in Hoboken while attending
St Peter’s College during the day. John graduated from St Peter’s with
honors with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting. He worked
for the accounting firm Peat, Marwick, and Mitchell from 1951 to 1962.
As a supervisor with Peat, John would come to Nutley Savings and Loan to
review and audit the institution. He gave the savings and loan advice
and recommendations on how to automate and modernize the entire bank’s
operations, which the institution did implement. Nutley Savings and Loan
President John Dolan took a liking to the bright young accountant and
offered him a position with the savings and loan. John started his
career with Nutley Savings in 1962 and in 1963 was elevated to
comptroller and board member. John became executive vice president and
in 1971, upon the death of his mentor John Dolan, became President and
Chairman of Nutley Savings.
In keeping with its history as “Nutley’s only hometown financial
institution” Nutley Savings was a friendly, community minded
organization. Under the guidance of John, the savings and loan grew from
$60 million to $212 million in assets. It ranked 13th in size
among the 200 savings and loan associations in the state at that time
and served more than 22,000 customers. Over the years, Nutley Savings
made its mark on the financial community by instituting innovative
practices and services. It was one of the first financial institutions
in the state to install an ATM machine. Under Mr. Kelly’s leadership
Nutley Savings was known for its special brand of community involvement.
As John would say “the community is our most important investment” and
he believed that the institution should take an active role in community
activities, donating score boards for athletic fields and gymnasiums
both in public and parochial schools, sponsorship or support for
numerous civic and charitable organizations as well as health care
programs held in the bank and support for area hospitals. In addition,
John also had the institution sponsor countless performances of local
musical groups and individuals, annual youth basketball tournaments, an
annual area chess tournament, art exhibits, the Nutley 5-mile Classic,
and the Tour Of Nutley bike race. John created the Nutley Savings
Community Room to honor former President John F Dolan. This room was
utilized free of charge by local and charitable organizations as well as
by individuals for family functions.
In the motion picture “It’s A Wonderful Life” Jimmy Stewart plays George
Bailey, the president of a local savings and loan that granted home
mortgages to citizens that larger banks turned down, gave advice and
counsel to people, and did everything he could to make his community a
better place to live. George was loved and admired by all. John Kelly
was the George Bailey of his community.
John began his political career in 1981, being elected to the NJ
assembly, serving 18 years spanning the governorships of Tom Kean, Jim
Florio and Christie Whitman. He represented parts of Essex, Bergen, and
Passaic counties. John took great pride in writing legislation that he
believed would benefit the people. He had the privilege of having over
143 bills that he authored and signed into law. He authored the original
Helmet Bill requiring that children wear helmets while riding bikes,
scooters and skateboards. He authored the bill requiring that mammograms
and pap smears be covered by insurance companies. All NJ college
dormitories have fire sprinklers in place, thanks to a bill John Kelly
authored. John was chairman of the Assembly Insurance and Banking
committee. In 1983, he was author of the original Jobs Training Act,
which became known as the Governor’s Employment and Training Initiative.
This law provided training for the state’s disadvantaged and displaced
workers. He sponsored legislation calling for the establishment of a
fund to aid families with children suffering from catastrophic illness
as well as legislation aimed at eliminating frivolous lawsuits. On the
Appropriations Committee he secured necessary funding for disabled
children and autistic research. John also created a law requiring every
newborn have their hearing tested before they are released from the
hospital. This law is now national. He established a Breast Cancer
Awareness Campaign in the Department of Health and Senior Services which
required school districts to provide instruction on breast
self-examinations. John established the Health Wellness Promotion Act
to create minimum preventive measures that must be covered by insurance
In 1938, John’s dad died tragically in a snow storm accident, and he
remembered how hard this was on himself and his younger sister Theresa.
Every Christmas, Jersey City firemen and policemen would bring gifts to
John and his sister. He also never forgot the tough financial burden on
his family. The country was in the middle of the Great Depression; John
had no father, no social security back then, no pension, or benefits.
But every Christmas, those firemen and policemen brought a little joy to
him and his sister. John authored the bill that guaranteed the pension
and health benefits to all families of deceased firemen and police
officers. The International Association of Fire Fighters honored him in
a special ceremony in The Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in
Newark, January 2001. This is the greatest honor and privilege the
Association can award.
John was coordinator of the New Jersey Cares Project which sent more
than 7000 “care packages” to US military troops serving in Operations
Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The project, which spanned six months
and operated on a statewide level, included three shipments to armed
forces in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. Kelly was recognized
by the US Department of Defense for the project and his support of the
National Guard Reserves.
John was elected Mayor of Nutley in May 1988, serving as the Director of
Public Safety for eight years. The 6179 votes he received in 1988 were
the most ever received by a commission candidate in Nutley. It was also
the first and only time a first time candidate was elected mayor of the
John was a parishioner and trustee of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in
Nutley and was the past Town Chairman of the United Way Drive and the
March of Dimes Campaign. In 1985, he was appointed to the New Jersey
Crime Prevention Advisory Committee for a three year term. He was member
of the Martin Luther King Commission from 1986-1989. He served as
chairman of the New Jersey Fire Safety Commission and he was appointed
to the Ellis Island Commission to work for the rehabilitation and
preservation of Ellis Island and the heritage of our ancestors.
John was not one to mince words, once telling a TV reporter during an
interview that “repeat convicted pedophiles should be castrated” and
another time telling a legislator who was stalling and debating one of
his bills in the assembly chamber: “I may not know much, but I can count
and I know I have the votes to pass my bill and you can stick it up your
Kazoo!” John had a very colorful way with words.
Mr. Kelly personally met with four sitting presidents in the White
House. President Gerald Ford in 1975, President Ronald Reagan in 1984,
President George Bush in 1991 and President George W Bush in 2001.
John was very proud of his Irish and Italian ancestry visiting both
Italy and Ireland several times. He was very active in the Nutley Irish
American, Club, the Unico Club in Nutley and was co-founder of the
Nutley Columbus Day Parade in 1982. He donated money to several
organizations so that they could set up college scholarship funds.
John Kelly was devoted to helping the people of NJ and he used all of
his energy to try to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods and
communities. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, John anonymously donated
countless turkey dinners, toys, gifts, money and clothing to the less
fortunate. He had an uncommon measure of public-spiritedness in behalf
of his fellow citizens as Mayor, Assemblyman, Commissioner, Bank
Executive and friend.
He was a true gentleman, with a deep devotion to his God, country,
family and friends. The foundations of his legacy will continue to build
a better community for all. He once said, “It’s a great life God has
given me.” No one will ever forget Mr. Kelly. He was extraordinary,
admired, endearing and cherished by all because he was a friend to all.
Mr. Kelly was predeceased by his parents, Joseph A Kelly and Mary
Silvestri Kelly, uncles Anthony Silvestri and Thomas Cone. He is
survived by his wife of 55 years Elizabeth Meli Kelly, his
brother-in-law John Meli, his sister Theresa Nealon, his four children
Regina Kelly LaScola and her husband Donald, Joseph and his wife
Catherine, Dr John V Kelly Jr and his wife Cynthia, Renee and her
husband John T Kelly, eleven grandchildren Christopher, Joseph, Matthew,
Luke, John, Laren, Elyse, Dianda, Christa, Alexa, and Kristen.
It has been said that life is a gift from God and the way you live your
life is you’re thanks to God. John Kelly thanked God every day of his
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