No longer able to speak because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Dick Kelley sat in a wheelchair last March in Boston College’s Conte Forum as the US Basketball Writers Association honored him with its Most Courageous Award.
An assistant athletics director for media relations at BC since 1991, he cried tears of joy and appreciation during a prolonged ovation from fans, players, officials, and coaches at the BC-Virginia basketball game that day. When the Eagles won, 53-52, on a 3-point basket with 8.2 seconds to play, jubilant BC players embraced Mr. Kelley.
“The winning shot was taken directly in front of where Dick was sitting. You couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate script,” recalled Chris Cameron, associate athletics director for athletic communications at BC.
“There are many people who have loved Boston College equally, but no one loved Boston College more than Dick,” Cameron added. “He was an outstanding mentor, not only to our student athletes, but also to the student assistants in our office. His contributions to the college and our department cannot be measured.”
Mr. Kelley, whose “BC 8789” license plate announced the years he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the college, died Feb. 13 in Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 48 and lived in Brighton.
That evening his parents, Ann (Daley) and Ed Kelley of Andover, were at his bedside, relaying to him the play-by-play of the Boston College-Georgia Tech basketball game.
Last Wednesday, the day after Mr. Kelley’s funeral Mass, BC’s basketball players and coaching staff wore black and white “DK” emblems in his memory as the Eagles upset undefeated Syracuse, the nation’s top-ranked team.
‘There are many people who have loved Boston College equally, but no one loved Boston College more than Dick.’
“It’s been a very emotional week for us,” head coach Steve Donahue said after the 62-59 overtime win, adding that Mr. Kelley was “a selfless man who I will always admire and never forget.”
In a eulogy, Ann Kelley said her son’s life was a tale of two families: one at home, the other at BC.
“We all loved Richard not only because of how special he was and how many wonderful kindnesses he bestowed on others, but because he made us, his family, better people,” she said.
Mr. Kelley, who had played basketball at Andover High School, was BC’s primary media contact for men’s basketball, and the secondary contact for men’s hockey and soccer.
“Even though I was the oldest, I looked up to him,” said his brother Ted, a former BC basketball captain who lives in Foxborough. “He was very cerebral in everything he did and very caring. He loved sports and he loved to write, so he had the perfect job.”
Mr. Kelley was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. As his health declined, BC’s legendary hockey coach Jerry York would visit and bring coffee and Mr. Kelley’s favorite chicken dish from Porcini’s restaurant.
“Dick lived less than a mile from my house in Watertown and I loved being his friend,” York said. “His heart was always in the right place and he always reached out to others.”
York was not the only one to offer assistance. When Mr. Kelley was using a wheelchair, head baseball coach Mike Gambino and sports information colleague Tim Clark drove him to the office. When Mr. Kelley needed financial assistance to cover home health care, friends raised nearly $45,000 through YouCaring.com. Raffles initiated by Mr. Kelley’s sister-in-law, Carrie, raised another $40,000 last fall.
For the past year and a half, Mr. Kelley lived in a BC-owned condominium on Commonwealth Avenue, arranged through the office of Leo Sullivan, BC’s vice president for human resources.
“There weren’t too many days that I missed seeing him,” said Mr. Kelley’s father, Ed, who regularly visited the condo.
“Dick was his own person until the end and Boston College and the Jesuit community made that possible,” said his father, an assistant basketball coach at Andover High when his sons played there.
Since fall 2012, Mr. Kelley communicated through a special computer. A device attached to his eyeglasses was connected to a cursor, which he controlled by moving his head. He sent frequent e-mails that way, including to varsity basketball players Ryan Anderson and Lonnie Jackson last April after they visited. Mr. Kelley enjoyed hosting meals for the players at his home.
“It was great to see both of you. You are always welcome here,” Mr. Kelley wrote to the players. “You may be tired of me saying this, but I’m going to do it again. You are elite young men. . . . You are engaging and have constant smiles on your faces. Your positive energy is contagious. . . . I have immense respect for both of you . . . DK.”
Anderson said Mr. Kelley called him into his office the day he arrived at BC.
“We didn’t really talk much about basketball,” Anderson recalled. “It was more about my family and my interests and how to present myself in a way that would reflect well on the college. He was the biggest influence on my life since I was in high school.”
Chris Kreider, a former Eagles hockey star now playing for the New York Rangers, said he is a better person for having known Mr. Kelley. “He was an unbelievable listener, a person you could learn from, and he was extremely passionate about everything he did,” Kreider said.
Mr. Kelley, whose office was crammed with mementos ranging from the 2008 national champion hockey team picture taken with President George W. Bush to a photo of his beloved nieces and nephews, was highly regarded by peers and the media.
Globe sports editor Joe Sullivan called him “a consummate, knowledgeable professional whose love of BC was evident in the way he did his job.”
Jack Grinold, associate athletic director emeritus at Northeastern University, said sitting in the BC press box was like being in Mr. Kelley’s living room. “He was a delight to be with and always happy to see you,” Grinold said. “He even asked me if the food was OK.”
Mr. Kelley, a 1983 Andover High graduate, had served as an undergraduate and graduate assistant to Reid Oslin, former director of BC’s sports information office.
“He was a master at writing, statistics, and media relations, and I think he was the happiest person with his job that I have ever met,” Oslin said.
Mr. Kelley’s first full-time sports information position was at Boston University, where he stayed two years before returning to BC.
“There was nobody I saw in all my years in the profession who worked harder or was more devoted to our student-athletes,” said former BU sports information director Ed Carpenter.
In addition to his parents and brother, Mr. Kelley leaves another brother, Patrick of Andover.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated last May, Mr. Kelley thanked those who supported him.
“I am grateful for all that I have and all that I have been given, and I’m not talking about material things. I have a great, loving family . . . I have remarkably loyal friends,” he wrote. “My Boston College family continues to amaze me with its generosity, love, and support. I am blessed to have great faith. I know I am never alone.”Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.