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Honoring NewBridge Services co-Founder Mary Jane Kelly

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

NewBridge Services founder Mary Jane Kelly, right, with her husband, Elmer.When the Pequannock Valley Mental Health Center opened in 1963, co-founder Mary Jane Kelly could see it just beyond her backyard, in the former Pompton Plains library. Kelly, with her two boys in tow, would head over most evenings to prepare it for the next day’s clients.

“We were the cleaning crew!’’ Kelly said in a 2013 interview. She died in 2017 at age 99.

Her elder son, Patrick, recalled emptying ashtrays filled with cigarette butts in the waiting room. When he was older, he had a paid job cleaning the building, one he held through high school. “She instilled in us it was good to work,” he said. After college, Patrick Kelly became a physician assistant and university instructor. He served as a torchbearer for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

Patrick Kelly remembered his mom typing hours a night for the nonprofit in its early days. She would scrape a mistyped letter off the paper and fix it. Then his father bought her a newfangled IBM Selective typewriter and she could use Wite-Out  for corrections, he said.

His mom, who went by her middle name, Jane, was committed to the organization’s mission and was proud to work there. At some point, she received a salary, but “she wasn’t doing it for the pay,” Patrick Kelly said.

`Behind-the-Scenes Mover and Shaker’

Jane Kelly served as the board of trustees’ secretary for decades, and also as treasurer. “She was a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker,’’ said Robert L. Parker, retired CEO of NewBridge Services, in 2017. “Jane was an amazing person with grace, dignity, and love for those with mental illness in need,” Parker said. Pequannock Valley Mental Health Center was renamed NewBridge Services in 1998.

“I think she would be very proud of what it has evolved into,” Patrick Kelly said. In 2013, during NewBridge’s 50th anniversary, she said: “I was proud of it from Day One, and I marveled that it grew into such a great service for the community.’’

Jane Kelly married her high school sweetheart, Elmer, in 1937. They moved to New Jersey from West Virginia when Elmer landed a job running the clothing warehouse for the discount department store chain, Two Guys. Patrick Kelly was a child model, and his mother would take him into New York City for photo shoots, the son recalled. 

`A Ball of Energy’

“She was a ball of energy; my poor dad just got out of the way!” Patrick Kelly said. The Kellys were married 68 years, until Elmer Kelly’s death in 2003. At The First Reformed Church of Pompton Plains, where she was an active parishioner, Jane Kelly coordinated the church’s weekly coffee hours. “There was no question the coffee hour was going to be a success,” her son said. 

When she died, Patrick Kelly wrote in her obituary: “We’re sure that by now, Mom has met our Heavenly Father and given him a list to straighten this place out!”

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