Some opponents of proposed statue of Kelley are way off base

I typically ignore comments posted to stories on the Day website because the people who write them usually don't have enough courage to attach their names to them.

But there was a comment posted to a story I wrote two weeks ago about the possibility of placing the John Kelley statue near Mystic Pizza in downtown Mystic that I couldn't let go, especially since its writer, "Enewsreader" was so clueless about what Kelley meant to the community.

As many of you know, friends of Kelley, the 1957 Boston Marathon champion and two time Olympian from Mystic who died in 2010, are trying to raise $90,000 to erect a life size bronze statue of him and his dog. The statue looks like it may now be placed in a small parklet near his home that was created as part of the downtown Mystic streetscape.

Here's what "Enewsreader had to say: "Is it just me or are there so many better ways to spend $90,000? Maybe the Make a Wish Foundation? Or how about the Humane Society? Abused woman's shelters? Donate it in Kelley's name if you want but, honestly, who is really going to care about this statue except a very small group of individuals that remember this person's accomplishments of over 50 years ago. I read an article about a person that donated his bone marrow for a child he'd never met before in the hopes that the marrow transplant would cure the child's leukemia. It did. How about we put up a statue of that person?"

There's so much wrong with this, I'm not sure where to start.

But I'll try.

First, Kelley accomplishments went far beyond winning races and later coaching runners. More importantly, he spent decades teaching and inspiring generations of students at Fitch High School. So he deserves a statue just from that standpoint.

When I was entering my sophomore year at Fordham University, I moved in with a new bunch of roommates, one of whom was Mike Blanker, Fitch '80. When Mike heard I was on the track and cross country team he asked if I had heard of John Kelley. Mike would often talk about Kelley, but not about Kelley's running exploits but more about what a great teacher, coach and person Kelley was.

And let's not forget the stories about how Kelley and his late wife Jessie used to take in runners who were down on their luck and not ask for anything in return. Even though the Kelley's didn't have a lot of money, they never asked for a dime.

So it's not just a "very small group of individuals" who remember Kelley for his running accomplishment a half century ago.

Second, the money for the statue is private money. It's not coming from taxpayers but from a group of Kelley's friends who want to do something to properly remember him. So it's really none of your business unless you don't think it's appropriate for a town park.

Third, it seems that in today's climate of political correctness you can't do anything unless it's to help those less fortunate than you. If not, your being selfish or greedy.

I know some of the people in the Kelley statue group and they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and all they want to do is properly remember a great man and a good friend. And I'm sure they also support people less fortunate than them.

In a way, Enewsreader's comment is similar to the attitude that has invaded running in recent years. When I wrote in this column several years ago that charity runners have no business running the Boston Marathon unless they qualify like everyone else, I got hammered by some charity runners. They felt that raising money for cancer, diabetes, etc. more than justified their presence in the race which I think should be the last one reserved for better runners.

One of my critics, and there were a lot, said I would never know what it was like to be real runner unless I ran for charity. And all along I though it was a sport in which you challenge yourself and try to beat other runners to the finish line. I guess I was wrong.

So Enewsreader go and talk to some of the people who knew John Kelley.

You might just change your mind.

On the schedule

The 37th annual Tarzan Brown Mystic River Run, a 5.5-mile event, will be held Sunday, Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m. beginning on Pearl Street in downtown Mystic. For more information go to www.oceancommunityymca.org.

The Mohegan Striders Running Club's will hold its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Norwich Free Academy library, room 1101. For more information about the club go to www.moheganstriders.org

Joe Wojtas is The Day's running columnist

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