Mary P. Kelley


Honored By

Honored by: Boice, Ann
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Leaf Tile, Large

Mary P. Kelley, was born in Mt. View, Missouri, October 18, 1907, and moved to Arizona in 1930. She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Education from the University of Arizona, and taught sixth grade at Amphitheater Elementary School. She was very active in the Tucson community and was President of the First Congregational Church, President of Church Women United, President and a founding member of Habitat for Humanity in Tucson, President of PEO chapters AE and BQ and a board member of the YWCA. Mary served as President of the United Nations Board and helped establish the United Nations Center in Tucson. She was honored by the YQCA with a lifetime award for Women on the Move. She was honored as Mother of the Year of Arizona in 1975.

Tucson Citizen, Thursday, December 18, 2003

Mary Kelley, key force in Habitat for Humanity, YWCA

"There's always been such an urgency for me - a restlessness to get things done," she once said.

Mary Kelley, who was instrumental in bringing Habitat for Humanity to Tucson, died Tuesday. She was 96. Habitat uses volunteer labor and donated materials to build homes for people who cannot afford them. The organization has built more than 200 homes here since 1980.

"She worked on the first houses for Habitat for Humanity and would go around to friends and gather used washers and dryers," said her daughter Ann K. Boice. "She was always remaking someone's old drapes for the homes. She took her sewing machine everywhere."

Mrs. Kelley also was a founder of the UNICEF store, which sells imported items to benefit that organization. She was named Arizona's Mother of the Year for 1975 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the YWCA here in honor of her work with Tucson's children and youth.

A social crusader during a time when women were just entering the work force, Mrs. Kelley worked with the Latch Key program for children of working mothers and was a force behind the YWCA's now-defunct Mary Kelley Early Childhood Center.

"She was very active in YWCA when we were the first organization to bring child day care to the community," said YWCA Executive Director Janet Marcotte. "She was instrumental in recognizing that need and pushed the YWCA to fill that need for women."

She also was involved with the Residential Intervention Center for girls with emotional conflicts or who were runaways.

She also helped set up a migrant school in the Marana fields to teach workers' children.

Interviewed by a local newspaper 28 years ago, Mrs. Kelley said, "The way I feel, there's not a nickel's worth of time to be wasted. There's always been such an urgency for me ' a restlessness to get things done. I'll never live long enough to do all the things I want to do."

Mrs. Kelley came to Tucson in 1938 when her husband, Victor Kelley, joined the University of Arizona faculty in the College of Education.

Her daughter remembers her as always busy - but she also "loved to tell a funny story."

"She was a worker bee. She liked to get the job done and didn't care about being in charge or anything like that," Boice said.

Her son, Capt. Bruce Kelley, was killed in Vietnam in 1965.

Mrs. Kelley had nine grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.