Delta Kelly

Delta Kelly is nominated for County Leader Posthumously 

Delta Kelly Elementary School was over-flowing with students, parents and community members who attended a special dedication ceremony Sunday, October 6.  The thirteenth elementary school built in the northwest quadrant of the sixty six square mile area that makes up Rochester Community Schools opened August 27 to serve 463 students.  Named after Oakland Township historian, Delta Kelly, the school is the first school to be named after a woman.  Several members of Delta Kelly’s family attended the dedication including her five children, brother and sister.  “Having a school named after our mother is a tremendous honor,” said Jo Ann Bourez, Kelly’s eldest child.  “It is a wonderful opportunity for parents and staff to work with children to develop an appreciation of the past and develop a vision for the future,” added Bourez.


Susan Wood, granddaughter of Delta Kelly, teacher in the District and Rochester High School cheerleading coach worked with students to teach them a Delta Kelly cheer.  Students performed the cheer and sang the new school song written by physical education teacher, Mary Ellen Belote.  “The cheer and the song will both become traditions for the new elementary school,” Marsha Andres, principal of Delta Kelly shared at the dedication program.

     Delta Kelly lived on Gunn Road in Rochester , Michigan and spent almost 40 years teaching in and around Oakland County. For fourteen years of her career she served as an educator at Baldwin Elementary School. She helped form the Baldwin School Environmental Student Council in 1972 to teach children to be partners with the land. The nature center area that developed from this program is still in use today at Baldwin School. Mrs. Kelly had a real love for birds and was a member of the Audubon Society. Her many other civic contributions included being a co-founder of the Oakland Township Historical Society, co-chairing the Bicentennial Steering Committee, and contributing a weekly historical column for the Rochester Observer and Eccentric. She also spent several years mapping all of the wetland areas around Paint Creek, which helped in the establishment of the current township wetlands ordinance. In addition, Mrs. Kelly taught Sunday school at Paint Creek United Methodist Church, served as a Girl Scout leader, and was a Natural Beauty Roads petitioner. In her "spare Time" she taught chair caning and basket weaving classes for Rochester Community Schools enrichment program. After retiring, Delta Kelly continued to educate third graders with tours of historic Goodison Village each spring. Her love of the natural world, her fascination with local history, and her skill as a writer and author could not provide a more fitting foundation on which to build a new school community. Delta Kelly Elementary School serves as a magnificent tribute to a woman who was an incredibly vibrant, energetic, and dedicated citizen of Oakland Township and the Greater Rochester community.
     By Marsha Andres, principle, Delta Kelly Elementary School.

     The Sesquicentennial history of Michigan came to life when you talked to Delta Kelly about Rochester area farm settlers, the early mills, water routes, schools, railroads and churches.
     Our Honored Senior was born in Owosso, Michigan in 1911. her father, Enos Hutchinson, was the local florist and Delta began working in the family greenhouse when she was very young. She showed an early interest in writing and talking about history; and, when a freshman in high school, she won statewide honors in a National Meat Story contest for her essay about the history of food. Delta received a certificate and $16.00 in prize money which sent her to the "Y" camp that summer of 1927.
     "I think I'm an archeologist at heart because I like to 'dig up' the past", said Delta. A high school graduate during the depression in1930, she received a $150.00 scholarship from the Owosso Women's Club, which helped financially in her first year at Central State Teachers College in Mt. Pleasant. For three years she worked in a doctor's home to pay her way, then borrowed money from the Methodist Student's Fund to finish the last year living in the dormitory. During the college years, she met Wendell Kelly, who was to graduate at the same time. The day before graduation, they were married in the Methodist parsonage.
     Education became a career that endured for over 39 years. "My first year of teaching was in a Mennonite community in Fairview, Michigan, where I taught Latin,  Home Economics and directed the Senior play", Delta recalled. In order to provide credits for the hot lunch program, the children brought vegetables from their home gardens and canned them in class along with cold packing venison meat the Conservation officers brought in. This meat, combined with the vegetables, made nourishing stews.
     Wendell accepted a job teaching history in the Rochester School System in 1935 and they moved to a home on Castell Street where the first of their five children was born. Delta's teaching career was interrupted intermittently with family involvements: but, she managed to substitute whenever needed. After the birth of their third child, they moved to a farm on Gunn Road in Goodison. While raising a family, teaching school and serving the community, Delta also made time to become vitally interested in local history. Today she recognized as one of the most astute scholars of Rochester area history.
     During the 1976 U>S> Bicentennial year, she wrote many articles for the Rochester Eccentric and Clarion newspapers. She wrote interesting articles about our pioneers - about the rivers and creeks that provided power for the mills and the railroads that came through in 1872. She told of early places like the Decker's Settlement; about churches, schools and people. Many of the history discussions took place while she taught evening classes in chair seat weaving and basket weaving.
     During the Bicentennial year, she not only served on the Commission representing Oakland Township, she proudly served as President of the Rochester Women's Club, which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary. In 1983, Delta Kelly was honored by Oakland Township, where she had been chairperson of the Township Historical Districts Commission for years, and also for co-founding the Township Historical Society, where she served as the first president. Delta helped develop the Historic Districts Ordinance, adopted in 1979. She spearheaded activity to move and restore the Goodison House, which was tragically destroyed by fire, and she co-edited the outstanding Oakland Township Heritage book.
     In addition to all of her community accomplishments, Delta taught third grade on a regular basis at Baldwin school until her retirement in 1973. At Baldwin, she was active in many projects - she helped start the outdoor nature studies; she was a Girl Scout leader; was a choir member and taught Sunday School at the Paint Creek Methodist Church. Delta said, "We receive strength from history. Our pioneer ancestors fashioned out a way of life in coming to the Michigan Territory; and, with just a few basic tools, cleared the land for crops and built mills along the Clinton waterways."
     Delta Kelly made a significant contribution to all of us. Her dedication to preserve the history surrounding this area will always be a tribute to her.
           by Merritt Romine


Home • Genealogy • PhotosE-mail MikePowered by FFG