By Janet Glass
Peter was one of those rare folks who was equally outstanding in a leading role and a supporting role. When I became president of the Society a few years ago, I was quite unseasoned in matters of the Board. I did run the Board meetings, but Peter sat with his laptop open at every meeting checking the Ethical Constitution when some questions came up, skimming Web sites for me when other issues came up. He was always listening, he was always following, and he was always helping. I came to depend on his support and encouragement. It made all the difference for me in my new role.
Peter had many gifts and he shared them with us; terrific people skills, artistic skills and technical skills. Exceptionally smart and committed, you could often find him setting stuff up; tables, projectors, meetings, decorations, brochures, the donate feature on our Web site, the design on our T-shirts. He was equally at home with young and old. I watched him go from talk-ing to our loftiest presenters to my 6-year-old grandson, where he could become playful at the drop of a hat.
Peter worked very hard for us and he clearly loved the Ethical Culture Society. In leaving us he has taken pieces of our hearts with him. Our loss can’t be measured. We can only be grateful he was here.
By Ed Gross
One of my early memories of Peter was how he came to the rescue on one of the Society’s family camping weekends over the 4th of July weekend. It started to pour while we were setting up. Peter used his ingenuity and his height to set up a tarp to shelter us from the rain. I like the symbolism, because Peter quickly became a tent pole for the entire Society. We’re all going to have to pitch in to keep from sagging in all the places where Peter was using the height of his ingenuity, his intellect and his wonderful sense of community to keep us going.
By Diana Gross
Peter Kelley was someone you noticed. His stature undeniable, his voice animated and confident. Peter’s face was open, engaged and his eyes…so alive. Peter was always interested in new experiences—both his and yours.
He was whip smart. Peter knew how to get things done. The best way. This is how I remember Peter but not why I will never forget him. For me he was a touchstone, a practical advisor. I listened when he spoke. He always seemed to be able to come up with a different slant on any topic.
Peter was a welcoming presence. I loved when he made coffee for me or poured a measure of his wonderful scotch to savor together. I loved to hear him talk of his sons and their many successes in life, not boastfully but with deep admiration. He was an artist at heart and I loved seeing how he used his talent to make a beautiful home with Tracey.
Peter lived Ethical Humanism daily. He brought out the best in me without a doubt. He loved our Ethical Culture congregation and gave so much of himself that he inspired me to do the same. He was a cherished friend and I will hold his memory in my heart always.
By Bea Gopoian
Peter was such a wonderful human being that it is hard to come up with just one remembrance. Of course, he was an intrinsic part of our book group, always with insightful contributions and hanging out with all us ladies without ever making us feel like that was a problem for him. I will share one incident from our last Skills Auction: Bidding was going on for an event and I was hanging back and Peter jumped in and said, “Come on, Bea. Bid. We will take you.” So caring and generous, he knew I would not want to go alone and he took care of it. I will miss him very much.
By David Bland and Susan Lesh
Peter Kelley was president when we started coming to Ethical Culture and was, along with Joe, the “face” of the Society for us. His warmth, humor and great generosity of spirit were in evidence not only when he presided but every Sunday that he and Tracey were there, which is to say most Sundays. Peter also gave us what was in retrospect one of the best pieces of advice that we received. The Community Weekend was coming up and he told us that if we were on the fence about joining the Society, we should go to the Weekend because we’d not only get to know the people but get a sense of the community as well, and that by the end we’d know whether Ethical Culture was for us. Needless to say, we decided that it was for us. As we drove home we talked about how we wanted our kids to be like those kids (including Aaron and David Kelley) that we saw over the weekend.
Over the years Peter has been an integral part of the way we experienced Ethical Culture and Peter and Tracey became personal friends as well. We can still see Peter’s gentle smile, hear the warmth in his voice and appreciate his tempered suggestions on how to deal with difficult situations. We miss you, Peter.
By Ken Karp
A favorite story told by Peter was set in the years when he and Tracey were first discovering the Ethical Culture Society. Being from a religious family, he pondered Ethical Culture’s claim that it was a reli-gion, a question that also perplexes others. His punch-line, told with a raised eyebrow and a faint smile, was that he came to know for certain that Ethical Culture indeed met the definition of “religion” the first time he observed … the passing of the collection basket at the conclusion of the platform service. As one who also wrestled with this question, I greatly appreciated this enlightening anecdote, and have deployed it in conversation more than once. Thanks, Peter!
By Rita Goldenberg
Our book club will never be the same without our bright, dear Peter. Despite being the only man in our group for most of our existence, he never seemed uncomfortable. Always ready to look up information on his handy Blackberry, he graciously provided so much assistance whenever it was needed. He dissected the chosen book of the month, filling in whatever was missing in the discussion. He greatly enjoyed his beer and snacks and was, along with Tracey, a wonderful host in his own home. Words cannot adequately express how much he will be missed by each of us and personally by me.
By Lisa Schwartz
As Humanists, we believe that when one dies, they remain forever present in our memories; they are always a part of us. So, here are a few memories that I hold dear of Peter Kelley:
About 20 years ago, Peter and I taught a sexuality class to 12-year-olds as part of our Sunday School curriculum. This was quite sensitive and challenging, but Peter remained steadfast in his dedication to this curriculum, remaining calm in the face of sometimes unruly and very uncomfortable adolescents. Peter treated each student with such patience and kindness, and was a role model to the students and to me, too.
More recently, the Membership Committee re-instituted our annual community weekends partly because of Peter’s enthusiasm and his able assistance in planning it. I will always remember Peter’s fun-loving, beer-drinking presence at the game nights, his helping our children to make s’mores around the campfire and his love of just sitting around chatting with his community with a beer in hand.
Peter was a humble, kind, gentle man. He was always there willing to help and so capable in many ways—as our our PR man, our technology guru, our finance expert, a true pillar of our community. As I strive to be the best I can be, Peter will always come to mind. I will strive to be as humble, as kind and as giving as he was.