Published in The Virginian Pilot on February 23, 2013
Betty (Brown) Kelly (1919 - 2013)
McLean - Betty Brown Kelly, daughter, sister, wife, mother,
teacher, preacher, caregiver and spiritual seeker, peacefully
slipped Earth's surly bonds February 17, 2013 departing from
the bedside throng of loving family to the Love awaiting her.
The eldest of three children, Betty was born to Georgia
Hamilton Brown and Captain Robert Washington Brown at
the Gorgas Army Hospital in the Panama Canal Zone on
October 23, 1919. The military family traveled across the country from post to post,
settling in the Arlington, Virginia, where Captain Brown became Deputy Judge Advocate
of the Army.
She met the love of her life, John Curtis Kelly, at the tender age of sixteen while attending
a "tea dance" at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; thus beginning a lifetime
romance. Betty graduated from Western High School Washington, D.C. in 1937 and
Curt from the Naval Academy the same year.
Betty attended Stuart Art School, worked at Jellif's and Woody's as a model and fashion
illustrator waiting for the expiration of the two year marriage prohibition that then
restricted USNA grads. In 1939 they married and remained so for 52 years. "Stay at
home" Navy wife is a misnomer when applied to Betty who raised six children while
traipsing around the country wondering when Curt would come home from the sea. She
supported his career through squadron, air wing and ship commands, and beamed with
pride when they stood on the bridge of the USS Hancock, CVA 19 for a dependents day
cruise, but wondering what trouble the children were in! Michael, Kathy, Robert, Jerry,
Thomas and Letitia were Betty's pride and joy and raising them should have entitled her
to honorary degrees in child psychology, culinary arts, juvenile justice and marriage/life
Betty revered her parents as true self-made successes from the mountains of late
nineteenth century frontier Arkansas. Like her father who cared tirelessly for his sickly
aging wife, Betty steadfastly cared for her life love Curt as he suffered from progressive
dementia. Perhaps it was the strength of her father's convictions that motivated her own
spiritual exploration, studying Eastern religion/philosophy and committing to a
vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Her studies eventually lead her to convert to Catholicism late
in her story. Betty lived the admonition to love thy neighbor as thy self.
Once the children were grown she put her energy into volunteer service, officiating on
numerous Boards and service organizations. Betty's artistic training and appreciation of
beauty were expressed in her every day. She lived the line: truth is beauty, beauty truth.
Betty was predeceased by her parents Brigadier General & Mrs. Robert W. Brown, her
husband Captain John Curtis Kelly USN, her beloved daughter Kathleen Kelly Hall and
her brother Robert Hamilton Brown.
She is survived by her brother Ray Winton Brown, her children Michael & Peggy Kelly
(Chestertown, Md.), Robert & Marie Kelly( Norfolk, Va.), Jerry & Ellen Kelly (Fairfax, Va.),
Tom & Jude Kelly(Virginia Beach, Va.), Tish & Malcom Butler (McLean, Va.) and her
thirty grand and great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. on March 1, 2013 at St Luke's Catholic Church in
In lieu of Flowers, please consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association of America.