Remembering Bill Kelly
A. William (Bill) Kelly, Jr., 71, of Drums, passed away peacefully at home on Sunday Nov. 18, 2018.
Born in Scranton and raised in Towanda, Bill was the son of the late Bill Sr. and Louise Kelly.
A 1965 graduate of Towanda Area High School, he already possessed a passion for broadcasting for which he would dedicate his life.
At age 12, Bill and his friends made and operated a homemade plywood radio control board in his basement. Hired two years later by his hometown radio station WTTC, Bill described everything from Harry James music to horse-pulling contests. On-air, news, sales and management roles followed. Nine stations in two states came quickly, culminating at the then powerhouse number one Top-40 WARM radio in Scranton-Wilkes-Barre.
Realizing his love of broadcasting was a light bulb moment for which Bill was extremely grateful. His second revelation came when he began using the airwaves to help others. 20 years old and station manager of WYBG in Massena, N.Y., Bill raised money for a new ambulance and launched a successful “Save the YMCA” campaign. At WARM “the mighty 590”, his “Winter Walk” for the March of Dimes, a twenty-mile trek from Scranton to Wilkes-Barre, raised $20,000 for children with birth defects. Two years after the Hurricane Agnes flood, he reminded listeners of the Susquehanna’s natural beauty from his canoe in a one hundred-mile “Great Canoe Expedition.” Public service projects like these led him to WVIA, a newly developed public broadcasting television and radio station in Pittston. He volunteered at WVIA until he was offered a job as the station’s first Community Relations Director in 1974, beginning a forty-year career in public broadcasting.
“Festival 75” was Bill’s first fundraising event at WVIA. The eleven-day membership campaign raised over $135,000 which was ten times the amount of previous efforts. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting recognized WVIA with a single national award for fundraising, making it a model for public stations across the country. By approaching cable networks directly to carry WVIA, Bill expanded its audience to markets as far away as Long Island once again earning another national award, this time for audience building.
In 1991 after 16 years contributing to the success of WVIA, Bill took the helm as the station’s president and CEO. During his tenure, he refocused WVIA to become a community minded station and created topical programming of regional importance. Bill oversaw the station’s transformation to become the region’s first HDTV station in 2001 and dedicated the Sordoni High Definition Theater/Studio in 2007. Over four decades at WVIA, he has been recognized for leadership roles in Development/Marketing, TV and Radio Programming and Production, Cable Television Development and Corporate Communications.
Bill executive produced and hosted WVIA’s award winning State of Pennsylvania programs regularly interviewing governors, senators and other political newsmakers; as well as the station’s acclaimed Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal series where he interviewed local civic and business leaders.
Bill enjoyed a long relationship with his Alma Mater, Bloomsburg University. He graduated in 1971 from the College of Education with a Bachelor’s degree in English. He was an adjunct faculty member teaching courses in Speech and Mass Communications from 1981 to 1990. He was selected as the Young Alumnus of the Year in 1988 and delivered the university’s winter commencement address in 1994. Appointed to the Bloomsburg University Council of Trustees in 1995, Bill served as the Vice-Chairperson from 1997-2002 and Chairperson from 2002-2006.
He has received the Pennsylvania Medical Society Walter F. Donaldson award for outstanding Medical Journalism, the Northeastern Chapter March of Dimes Outstanding Volunteer Leadership award and is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Executive Management Institute. He was a popular public speaker and consultant, having addressed medical societies and bar associations on videotape depositions.
His past community service commitments include but are not limited to serving on the boards of the Community Medical Center in Scranton, The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Hospice of the Sacred Heart and Children’s Service Center, the President’s Advisory Council of Keystone College, Marian Sutherland Kirby Library, The Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Volunteers in Medicine and over three decades at the Sordoni Foundation.
With a general passion for life, Bill was an outdoor enthusiast, especially fond of camping, boating, biking and skiing. He was an avid reader with a deep interest in history. He also loved music, inspired by hymns and choirs that reminded him of his mother.
Bill is deeply missed by his wife Susan Prusack; son Sean Kelly and wife Kelli, daughter Kristin Doran and husband Joe, daughter Megan Mitchell and husband Tom, daughter Jodi D’Alessio and husband Craig; stepchildren Matthew Green, Steven and Luke Matyi; grandchildren Kylah, Kamryn, Bryce and Collin Kelly; Graham and Harper Mitchell; sisters Dottie Jennings and Wendy VanNest, and lifelong friend and mother of his children, Janice Kelly. Bill loved and cherished his family and enjoyed nothing more than becoming a grandfather and getting to spoil his grandchildren.
A celebration of Bill’s life will be held on Tuesday, Nov 27 at the Christ United Methodist Church 175 S. Main Rd.in Mountaintop at 11 am. Visitation will be Monday, Nov. 26 from 6 – 8 p.m. and 10 - 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to cureCADASIL at cureCADASIL.org and/or Volunteers in Medicine at vimwb.org.