The Man Underneath the Straw Hat
by Carol Punturieri
July 2006 – Jefferson Township Day XX – Opening Ceremonies
Jefferson Township resident Jack Kelly is quite well known all around town and throughout Morris County. And rightly so as he has been an active community leader for over five decades; and for the past 20 years, he has been the meticulous administrative director coordinating every facet of Jefferson Township Day. And for 20 years, Jack has worn a straw hat to every annual celebration making him always easily recognizable during the day and evening events by those who work alongside him. Jack has worked tirelessly to make each Jefferson Township Day a memorable day for all, year after year, after year. However, this event is the last one that Jack is orchestrating as he is retiring from his position as chairman of the Jefferson Arts Committee, hoping to turn the reins over to someone else.
Jack has constantly strived to make Jefferson Township a place to celebrate life. Over the years, he was influential in the formation of many organizations including Jefferson Township Fire Company No. I serving as a Chief, Exempt Fireman, and Jefferson Township Fire Marshall; the Milton First Aid Squad serving as a Captain; a Charter member of the Optimist Club; the President and Producer of the Jefferson Highlights Community Television Committee; Chairman of the Jefferson Arts Committee and overseeing its sub-committees including the Jefferson Township Community Band, the Jefferson Township Community Chorus, the Jefferson Township Community Players, and the Jefferson Township Gazebo Committee as well as the Jefferson Township Bicentennial Committee, and The Moving Vietnam Wall Committee. He has served on the Jefferson Township Planning Board and Board of Adjustment, was President of the Board of Trustees of the Jefferson Township Library, served as Regional Coordinator of the Morris County Citizens for Open Space, was elected President of the Morris County Parks Commission, and was Chairperson of the Jefferson Township Cable TV Franchise Committee. Because of his continuous efforts on behalf of the township, Mayor Russell Felter named him Jefferson Township’s first “Citizen of the Year” in 2000 and subsequently named the annual award after him since Jack so exemplifies what citizenship and community service mean.
Due to his dedication to the Diocese of Paterson’s Department of Person’s with Disabilities since 1973, Jack was named their “Man of the Year” in 2002 in recognition of serving on their Board of Trustees, chairing the Weigand Farm Golf Classic for over 30 years, and serving as Chairperson of the Department’s Bike Tour. In 2004, a street at the Weigand Farms facility on Weldon Road was named after him – Kelly Way.
Jack’s boundless energy, his unending visions for tomorrow, and his unparalleled commitment to his community are reasons why it is only fitting that he should forever be a part of Jefferson Township’s history – past, present, and future. While his day-to-day presence will be greatly missed by the members of the Jefferson Arts Committee, we know he will be lurking somewhere behind the scenes offering his ideas and guidance.
Jack’s original straw hat, although a bit frayed and worn, was placed in the Bicentennial time capsule in 2004 and will serve as a keepsake representing one humble man who really made a difference in the lives of others.
To that end, the Jefferson Arts Committee members who are present on this stage, in front of this stage, and elsewhere on the field working at their various stations salute the man we have and always will admire and respect – a true gentlemen, a humble man, an inspiration to all around him, and an outstanding citizen. We’re sure Jack will continue to somehow be a driving force in many township endeavors, and his legacy will live on forever in Jefferson Township. Our hats are ON to you, Jack Kelly as we are indeed proud to be members of The Jack Pack!
NOTE: With that last statement, members of the Jefferson Arts Committee lined up in front of the main stage, put on a straw hat!