Mr. Brendan Kelley, age 77, of Newport, Rhode Island, died May 18, 2018, after a long illness. Brendan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to the late Brendan and Grace (Golden) Kelley and
raised in Port Washington on Long Island. It was there he took the helm of his first boat, an old 16-foot Meteor, and developed a lifelong passion for sailing, including a stint on the Boston College sailing team, from which he graduated in 1963. He remained a loyal BC fan for the rest of his days, holding season tickets to BC football for many years. In later years Brendan was known, if not celebrated, for getting up at an ungodly hour in his apartment in Paris so he could watch the BC football team play on television. His usual comment was, “It was close through three quarters.” He never gave up on his Eagles.
Upon graduation from college, Brendan enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served six years in the Reserves. After his active duty service he worked for a year as a newspaper reporter at The Des Moines (Iowa) Register, returning to New York to join BBDO, a major advertising agency, in 1965. Brendan spent 40 years in the advertising business, first as a copywriter and later as a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York where he created the line “Don’t Leave Home Without It” for American Express.
He was the loving husband of Pamela (Ford) Kelley for 47 years. She was the center of his universe for all that time. He came up with many famous slogans in his work, but in life, he always returned to “Let me see what Pam thinks.” Pam was their navigator, on land and sea.
Brendan and Pam, in search of adventure, moved to Paris in 1980, where Brendan wrote a play, “The Day Babe Ruth Died,” and Pam discovered the world of French lace. While in Paris he resumed working for O&M, as International Creative Director, with responsibilities that extended from Paris to Sydney, Australia. By 1983 they had returned to the U.S., taking up residence in their beloved Newport. Brendan joined the Boston ad agency Ingalls, Quinn and Johnson as partner, and in 1993 began his own agency, The Boston Group, with a former Ogilvy colleague Mary Lou Pritchett. He retired from TBG in 2005.
During his career, he was the creative head of Michael Dukakis’ 1988 Presidential campaign, creating the award-winning campaign for the state of Massachusetts that coined the phrase, “The Spirit of America is the Spirit of Massachusetts.” He also worked with Gary Jobson in heading up marketing for Bill Koch’s 1992 successful America’s Cup campaign. Brendan and Pam also co-authored a diet book published by Doubleday in 1986 called “The Couples Diet.”
Brendan enjoyed the advertising business but sailing was his passion. It did not take long to convince Pam, who grew up with horses, that wrestling a spinnaker was more fun than show riding. They formed a unique partnership. In addition to doing the heavy work on the foredeck, Pam was the navigator; the first time his hand touched a tiller as a young boy, Brendan discovered that it was good to be skipper. For decades, he and Pam sailed extensively on the East Coast, cruising and competing, capped by a First in Class in the 1980 Newport-Bermuda Race aboard Attack. Post Attack they raced Full Tilt Boogie extensively, competing from Florida to Nova Scotia. Their most recent boat, a
J 133, Exile, was a familiar sight in the harbor in local races, evening sunset cruises and the occasional long-distance race or cruise. On or off the water Brendan never failed to make everyone laugh with his quick wit and wonderful sense of humor.
Brendan was a member of the Cruising Club of America, the New York Yacht Club and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club. He also contributed his time and expertise to many local non-profit boards, including The Redwood Library, Sail Newport, Oliver Hazard Perry RI, The Women’s Resource Center of Newport/Bristol, and he served as Board President of the Newport Film Festival for several of its most successful years.
Brendan is survived by his wife Pamela Kelley, his sister Susan Newbold, of Greenville, R.I., brother, Kevin Kelley of Newport, sister Cathryn Smith, of Maui, Hawaii, and brother Vincent Kelley of Bellingham, Wash. He also leaves his sisters-in-law Ingrid Cory, Deborah Kelsey and Mary Kelley, and brother-in-law Robin Newbold, as well as many devoted nieces and nephews: Deirdre Newbold, Tim Newbold, Ian Kelley, Andrew Kelley, Lightnin’ Dearden, Makalani Tyau, David Smith, Julia Kelley, Brendan Kelley, Gwen Cory and John Cory and numerous grandnieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by a sister, Margaret Kelley and a brother, Eugene.
Visiting Hours will be held Thursday, May 31, 2018, from 4-7 p.m. at Memorial Funeral Home, 375 Broadway, Newport. Funeral services will be held at St John’s Church at Washington and Willow Street on June 1, 2018, at 11 a.m. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Norwalk, Conn., or the Sail Newport Annual Fund, Newport, R.I.