|Rich Kelly (center)
Rich Kelly was an unassuming man. There was nothing pretentious about him. He was a genuine chap - a 'real' kind of guy. Intelligent, skillful but humble. The kind of individual who I could spend time with in the field and we did. A few times. Teaming up on several occasions to do Birding, Insecting, Butterflying, Botany and even doing some Conservation work. He was a well rounded naturalist, skillful but never boastful. He was also known to have an extensive Seashell collection. Rumor has it that it is perhaps, the largest on Long Island. I don't know because I never had a chance to see it. Rich was also known to be good at Herpetology the one area that I regret we did not explore together. By now, you get the picture, he was skilled in many areas.
Rich was the one along with Don Riepe who encouraged me to join the NYC Butterfly Club and while it was at first intimidating with all the talent at the meetings, I began to enjoy attending, if only for the laughter. Those meetings were very Sienfeldesque, the exchanges at times between our host Guy Tudor and attendees could be hilarious. It was Rich would later call me whenever I missed those meetings to ask about my absence and to let me know that I was on the "list" - the list of delinquents. But that was Rich, always making sure that others were keyed in on what was happening.
|Rich (L), Gail Benson (C) and Tom Burke (R). Note Rich's "baby blue" Tripod.
|Rich Kelly, 4th from left.
In 2013, I put out a call for any naturalist interested in joining me for a nature walk at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx Co. The walk was designed to highlight the adverse effect to wildlife of a pending paving project of the Putnam Trail being planned by City Parks. Rich Kelly was the only naturalist who answered the call; he came out to Van Cortlandt Park and participated in that walk with me, further solidifying our friendship.
In 2016, he alerted me to some uprooting of plants at an area called, "Sparrow Corner" at Jacob Riis Park in Queens Co. Because of his efforts and a coordinated response, we were able to get the area replanted in short order. That very same year, he was the only one to respond to a call from National Park Service Gateway, for SME's (Subject Matter Experts) for a 2016, BioBlitz at Jamaica Bay. We teamed up to catalogue insects and we had a great time in the field on that project. Rich was also very helpful in teaching National Park Service (NPS) staff about plants during the restoration of the North and South Gardens at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in 2015 and 2016.
We worked together with NPS, Tony Luscombe, on the Rocky Marsh, restoration project. Rich's contribution to that effort was invaluable in him being able to locate and identify important flora in the area. This was yet another one of those projects where Rich's contribution to conservation was important yet it was quietly done.
These are just some examples that I am aware of showing Rich's generosity with his time and expertise. He was a gem of a man. He used to tell me that he had the "patience of a flea" but I disagree. Rich had the patience of a saint. He would take the time to explain and answer questions from anyone who consulted with him. I did that, more than once, mostly on insects and he always helped me out.
|Rich Kelly Far Left On The East Pond At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
|Rich Kelly Still Kneeling Even With The New Tripod.
I was very saddened to learn of Rich's passing but if it frees him from the pain he was enduring, then I take some solace in knowing that he is now pain free, at peace and in a better place. It was not easy writing this piece about a man I admired for his unassuming brilliance. I will miss you my friend and will always remember you for all good times we shared and the kindness you showed me always.
Tags: Rich Kelly, Naturalist, Long Island NY