Robert P. Kelley, a local church minister who left the pulpit to serve his community in the secular world, died Tuesday at age 77. Mr. Kelley, born in Ohio but a Fort Lauderdale resident since 1965, was in great health, but he broke his leg getting Christmas decorations out of the attic, his son said. A few days after he had surgery and was discharged from the hospital, he died from a pulmonary embolism associated with his leg fracture, said his son, Robert W. Kelley of Fort Lauderdale.
Mr. Kelley’s path in life brought him before thousands of Broward County residents, as a church minister, a college professor, a psychotherapist, state Health and Rehabilitative Services official, assistant to the county administrator, board member on numerous charities, CEO of a local history and archaeological museum and a member of the Fort Lauderdale Housing Authority.
The Housing Authority offices on Sunrise Boulevard are in a building bearing his name.
Even as the unexpected death occurred, family and friends were planning to honor his life’s work with a surprise dedication of his namesake building and a nomination for Mr. Kelley to be declared Fort Lauderdale’s "distinguished citizen" of the year. Both initiatives will go forward.
Housing Authority Executive Director Tam English had gotten a copy of Mr. Kelley’s resume for the nomination, which was due this week.
"It’s four pages," English said of the resume, "and it’s not embellished. And it’s only about half of what he really did."
Mr. Kelley’s son said his father was a Protestant minister for years, but "my dad always believed that a Christian does good things for other people rather than staying in church and praying. You’re out doing what Jesus did, which was help other people."
So he left the ministry, but continued ministering via public service, to Broward County’s less fortunate.
"He didn’t die rich or famous," the younger Kelley said, "but his work fulfilled him more than fame or money ever could."
Mr. Kelley is survived by two sons, Bob and Tim; two daughters, Kathleen and Alice; and his wife, Mary.
Services are set for Saturday at 4 p.m. at First Christian Church, 201 SE 13th St., in Fort Lauderdale, where Mr. Kelley used to preach.
ONLINE: Read his resume at sunsentinel.com
Used by permission of the Florida Sun-Sentinel – 12.8.2008