John Kelly, a national journalist and public official, died on Jan. 9, 2021, at the age 85 at St. Mary’s VITAS in Waterbury. John was born July 22, 1935, in Quincy, Mass., son of the late James and Ann (Flynn) Kelly. John grew up in Braintree, Mass., and moved to Hamden with his family. He also lived in New York City for many years and upon retirement moved to Maryland.
John had launched his career in the late 1950s as a newspaper reporter and broadcast producer while attending Columbia University in Manhattan. His career included being a news editor and correspondent on the national staffs of NBC News and CBS News. He was the last surviving reporter to have covered the 1960 Democratic presidential nominee John Kennedy at Election Night in Hyannis Port, Mass. John went on to cover civil rights stories, the FBI and Watergate, working with NBC Nightly News co-anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. Later, he undertook work for the CIA in Indochina during the Vietnam War.
John also worked for New York State Office of Taxation and Finance, appointed by Gov. Hugh Carey, during the 1970s to help unravel corruption schemes that were hurting the state’s taxpayers. In 2010, he became a co-founding director of the Justice Integrity Project and provided active inputs on story ideas and editing issues until his final illnesses. He was extremely active in providing guidance, particularly on sensitive matters, to the Justice Integrity Project to advance its mission of reporting under-covered developments of current day news.
After retirement, John stayed active in the National Press Club and the Japanese symphonic community maintaining cross-cultural exchanges with Americans. He has also served on boards of trustees of philanthropic foundations that emphasize the importance of grants in health, education and the arts. John was a gentleman in words and manner and was extremely generous. He was deeply concerned about exposing injustice at any level and devoted his life and career doing so.
He is survived by his brother, James (Helen) Kelly of Bethany; a sister, Mary Jane (Carl) Fritz of Clinton; and predeceased by his brother, Robert Kevin Kelly. He is additionally survived by nieces and nephews, Eileen Cornacchia, James D. Kelly III, Kenneth Kelly, Tiffany Dahlgren, Charles (Todd) Venn and Marie Ventre; cousins and special friends, Valerie Braden, Andrew Kreig and Edward Plew.
A private Mass and celebration of John Kelly’s life is planned for a date to be determined. There are no calling hours, and arrangements have been entrusted to the Buckmiller Thurston Mengacci Funeral Home, 82 Fairview Ave., Naugatuck.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to any charity in John’s name.
To leave an online condolence, visit buckmillerthurstonmengacci.com.