Mystic's Kelley was most certainly statuesque

There are great ideas and then there are brilliant ideas.

This is one of the latter.

A group of runners, led by Jim Roy of Groton, has begun an effort to commission a life-sized statue of the late John Kelley and erect it just down the street from where he and his late wife Jessie lived on Pequot Avenue in Mystic.

"It seems like the perfect spot," Roy said.

The statue would be located on the site of the former Captain John Mason statue which honored the military leader who burned the nearby Pequot Indian fort in 1637.

That statue was removed in 1993 when it seemed wrong to have a statue honoring someone who massacred 600 men, women and children, especially with resurgence of the nearby Mashantucket Pequot tribe.

Ironically, there was no more peace-loving individual than John Kelley.

The Kelley home also was the start for the annual run and swim on New Year's Day, a event that Kelley always called crazy. How great would it be to now be able to start the popular event next to Kelley's statue?

The group has set up a Web site at, where you can learn more about the 1957 Boston Marathon winner, two-time Olympian and longtime teacher, coach and writer. Donations can be made electronically at the site or sent by mail to John Kelley Memorial Fund, c/o Jim Roy, 58 Cottage Street, Groton, 06340.

Roy, who was coached by Kelley at Fitch High School, said he thinks it might take about $100,000 to get the statue done. While some bigger donations will be needed, if you're an area runner think about contributing $25 or $50. It would be a nice thank you to the man who has arguably meant more to running in southeastern Connecticut than anyone else.

Roy said some donations have begun to come in.

"Kell stood for all things good. He's an easy guy to promote," he said.

Roy said he has begun talking to sculptors, including the artist who created the sculpture of Johnny Kelley "The Elder" near the start of Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon.

"I'd love to get someone local to do it," he said.

Roy said no decisions have been made about what the statue would look like but says he envisions a bronze figure on a granite base that people can look up at.

Roy said he has been discussing the idea with Kelley's family and he will make sure they are pleased with the eventual design.

Roy said he thought about raising the idea of the statue with Kelley in the final weeks of his life as he battled cancer.

But he didn't.

Anyone who knew Kelley knew he was an incredibly modest man, who felt uncomfortable talking about his accomplishments or having anyone point them out.

"Kell loved to talk about anything but himself. But deep inside I think he'd be honored and feel good about this," Roy said.

Roy has presented his idea to the Groton Town Council which has to approve the plan.

While Roy has taken the lead on the effort, he said he's just one person who looked up to Kelley.

"There's so many who loved him," he said.

On the (busy) schedule

• The 31st annual Lisbon Fall Festival 3.2-mile race will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Lisbon Community Center. Applications and information are at

• On Sunday, the first Surftown Half Marathon will be held at 7:30 a.m. at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly. More information is at

• On Saturday, Sept. 24, the St. Andrew Church choir 5K Rhythm Run will be held at 9 a.m. at the church at 128 Norwich Avenue in Colchester. Applications and information are at

• On Sunday, Sept. 25, the annual Niantic Bay Half Marathon and 5K will held at 9 a.m. at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. Information is at

• Also on Sept. 25 at 8:30 a.m. is the 6th annual Ocean Community YMCA Triathlon, which includes a half-mile swim, 16-mile bike ride and 3-mile run beginning at the Westerly Town Beach. Information is at

Joe Wojtas is The Day's running columnist.


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