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Columbia Missourian

Berry Kelly worked for justice, equality

By Jessica Salmond
July 1, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Berry Kelly worked for justice and equality, something he was restricted from when he grew up, his daughter Brook Kelly-Green said.

Mr. Kelly died Thursday, June 14, 2012. He was 88.

Mr. Kelly was born in Columbia on Sept. 24, 1923, to William Kelly and Margaret (Drew) Kelly. He was the youngest of eight children.

After graduating from Douglass High School, he received his degree in engineering from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, an African-American institution at the time.

Mr. Kelly served in the South Pacific in the Army during World War II, and moved to California after his service. In 1974, he met and married Irene Hassen in California. They had one daughter, Brook Kelly-Green. 

While in California, Mr. Kelly became a teacher and then a consultant for that state's Department of Education. He spent nearly 20 years traveling to California schools to make sure the institutions were following desegregational policies and giving children of color a quality education, Kelly-Green said.

"He was really proud of that work," Kelly-Green said. "He was trying to rectify the injustices he experienced as a young man."

Not only did he work for equality, but he was also generous with family, friends and strangers, she said. 

"He gave people second chances," she said. 

Besides teaching, Mr. Kelly had many diverse interests including architecture, woodwork and music. His favorite kind of music was jazz, and he especially enjoyed the work of Miles Davis, Horace Silver and Jack Wilson, Kelly-Green said.

He is survived by his wife, Irene Kelly; two daughters, Brook Kelly-Green and Samantha Stephens; four nieces, Faye Tibbs Jackson of San Diego, Calif., Patricia Johnson of Monrovia, Calif., Sylvia Kernell of Altadena, Calif., and Sydney Johnson of Los Angeles; and five nephews, Ralph Tibbs of Grand Blanc, Mich., Harry Johnson of Tijuana, Mexico, Irving Kelly Jr., of Wichita, Kan., Larry Kelly of Kansas City and Richard Kelly of Colorado.

He was preceded in death by three sisters, Betty Johnson, Christine Tibbs and Lillian English; and four brothers, Orville Kelly, Irving Kelly, Richard Kelly and William Kelly.

Services are pending.

Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.