|Daniel E. Kelly, who served the Third Ward on the Harrison Town Council from 1995 to 2006, died Monday, Oct.28, 2019, surrounded by his family.
He was 65.
Born in West Hudson Hospital, Kearny, Dan lived in Harrison for most of his life. He worked in the Guidance Department of the Hudson County School of Technology in addition to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and Driver Harris.
Dan was a parishioner as well as a lector at Holy Cross Church, Harrison, for many years. He was most at peace when helping others, be it through the organization of Harrison’s long-running food pantry or his patronage of the town’s many sports teams as recreation chairman.
At the height of his political career, his initiatives and outreach were featured prominently on the pages of this newspaper. In fact, his family recalls that many Harrisonians would joke that an edition of The Observer lacking a Dan Kelly article was so rare, it would no doubt become a collector’s item.
Following Kelly’s death, several people whose lives were positively touched by the former councilman, took time to reflect on the many things he did for them — and for others.
Kearny’s Len Twist, who has long advocated for feline Trap, Neuter, Return programs, says Kelly was instrumental in helping him establish such a program in Harrison.
“It was the late Mayor Ray McDonough who we needed to convince, but Dan was the one who made sure that happened,” Twist says. “He had a strong love for cats — he used to feed them and may have had a colony in his own neighborhood. But he did so much more for his community — he was a great man who will be missed.”
Another man, who will will only call by his first name, Lou, of Harrison, heaped praise on the former councilman, for the work he did to help those afflicted by addiction — both drugs and alcohol. Kelly would often be found at Trinity Episcopal Church, Kearny, offering a comforting ear those who gathered for 12-Step meetings. And though those meetings were anonymous, he never held back talking about his helping others.
“He was always a positive guy,” Lou says. “He was always cheerful, you know, trying to crack jokes. He tried to keep everything positive because he was very serious about his (own) recovery. He always helped others with theirs.”
Lou says he, too, is open about his own recovery, muck like Kelly was, and so he often held a special place in his heart for the former councilman.
“The Lord is my higher power and it was for Dan, too,” Lou says. “It’s such a shame — I didn’t know he died until now.”
The Observer also spoke with a third person who wanted to share her own reflections on Kelly’s death. Her name is Linda — and she’s lived in the Harrison Gardens for “many, many years.” She says Kelly was instrumental in her life in more ways than one.
“I wouldn’t be living here were it not for Dan Kelly,” she recalls. “I was really struggling in my life. I was addicted to pain meds. I was drinking. It was just really bad in all parts of my life. Dan did so much to help me get out of the rut I was in. He helped me get into recovery by making calls to get me a rehab bed. I spent time away and when I came back to Harrison, he was not done helping me. He was instrumental in getting me into the (Harrison) Gardens.
“If it weren’t for him, I am not sure I would have survived. The temptations to go back to my old ways would have been great. He made sure that didn’t happen. He wouldn’t let me because he always put other people first. That was his greatest strength and weakness. By putting other people ahead of his own needs, I think he sometimes forgot, understandably, about himself. I will never forget this man. He literally saved my life.”
Dan is survived by his loving children, Matthew Kelly, Milinda Kelly, and her husband Raymond Rich; cherished grandchildren, Brianne and Joshua Kelly; dear siblings, Sean and Mark Kelly (predeceased wife Extradelia Kelly), Colleen Kelly Doffont, her husband Joseph, and sister-in-law Karen Kowalski Kelly. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was predeceased by his son, Daniel, who died just a few months ago, on June 7, 2019, at 43; his parents, John and Bernice Kelly; his siblings, Brian, Timothy and Terance Kelly; and his former wife, Colleen Kelly.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to St. Christopher’s Inn at Graymoor, P.O. Box 303, Garrison, N.Y. 10524 or www.stchristophersinn-graymoor.org.
The funeral was conducted from the Mulligan Funeral Home, Harrison. A memorial Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church, Harrison. To send a condolence message to his family, please visit www.mulliganfh.com.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.