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Boston Marathon winner John J. Kelley dies at 80

North Stonington — John J. Kelley, the 1957 winner of the Boston Marathon and a fixture in the local running community for years, died this morning. He was 80 years old.

A two-time Olympian and eight-time national marathon champion, Kelley was also a popular English teacher who coached in Groton for 24 years. He was remembered Sunday by Amby Burfoot, his former pupil, as a humble and modest man.

Burfoot, who went on to win the 1968 Boston Marathon and was coached by Kelley at Robert E. Fitch Senior High School, said his former coach’s impact in the running world is immeasurable.

“If you asked (any top runner) in this country … they would say that the path that they have followed the last 30 years would not have been possible without him first,” Burfoot said Sunday in a phone interview. “He was literally the first modern American marathoner in the post-World War II period. He set the standards that everyone reached for, that everyone tried to break in the later years.”


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