Beloved father, husband and friend Stephen Patrick Kelly celebrated a final St. Patrick’s Day and died peacefully as the sun rose the following morning, March 18, 2021, surrounded by his wife Debra and their children Alex, Lauren and Caroline.
Born on Dec. 20, 1950, in Mineola, N.Y., to Richard “Dick” Kelly and Barbara Kelly, née Nilsson, Steve spent his youth growing up on Spring Creek in Husum, Wash., graduating from Columbia High School in 1969. After working tugboats on the Columbia River and earning a business degree from Washington State University, he began a career in marine transportation that spanned three decades.
Work took Steve up and down the Pacific Coast and into the American Midwest. After managing tankers for Standard Oil at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., he relocated to Valdez, Alaska to establish the company’s agency for ships that carried crude oil from the terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. He served there as Port Manager for S.P.C. Shipping Company. He was tasked with coordinating a study of threats posed by icebergs to vessels in Prince William Sound. Moving to Standard Oil’s Ohio headquarters, he became the company’s chief government liaison and expert on federal law enacted after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Eager for another assignment in Alaska, Steve joined Alyeska Pipeline Service Company as Crisis Management Coordinator and organized emergency response programs for various potential emergencies and/or disasters. Finally, he returned to his boyhood home in Husum and finished his career as Vice President of Rice, Unruh, Reynolds, the oldest shipping agency in the United States.
Apart from work, Steve dedicated many hours of service as a volunteer. He was President of both the Propeller Club and the Valdez Chamber of Commerce. He was active in the Lions Club and the Knights of Columbus. He rarely missed mass at St. Joseph’s Church in White Salmon, Wash. He enjoyed sailing, blues and rock music, and plenty of space on the dance floor. He took great pleasure in hiking and the outdoors, especially the Goat Rocks Wilderness area north of Mount Adams. He was an avid storyteller and jokester, loved for his warmth, generosity and wicked sense of humor. He treated every day as a special occasion and made holidays magical.
Steve was preceded in death by his parents, brother, David, and nephew, Kable. He is survived by Debra Reed, their son Alex, and twin daughters Lauren and Caroline of Seattle. Also surviving are his sister Christine Perry, brother Tim Kelly, former wife Joanne Barr, son Blair, daughter-in-law Erin Doran, grandson Connor, and sons-in-law Casey Funke and Morrie Low.
After an 18-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease, Steve donated his brain to Columbia University’s neuroscience program for research into Parkinson’s disease, Lyme disease, and Lewy Body Dementia. A celebration of his life will take place in White Salmon on June 12.