This week, the City of Melrose lost a veteran, a firefighter, and a great public servant, Ed Kelly. In my years as mayor I have learned that there are many people behind the scenes who make our community run, particularly during the worst of times. Ed Kelly epitomized that individual. For many years, Ed was the Emergency Management Director, and the citizens of Melrose benefited greatly from him taking on that role.
Ed did many things daily to make us a safer community, but I would like to share two examples in particular. The first was his work during the greatest natural disaster in my time as Mayor, the Mother’s Day storm of 2006, in which up to 14 inches of rain pummeled the region. This was before most of the infrastructure work was done in Melrose, and Melrose was a community that flooded usually after three inches of continuous rain. During that crisis, almost 1,000 homes were evacuated, including large-scale apartment complexes, over a very short period of time. People were seeing their homes under water, precious memories lost in the floods. There was very little assistance outside of our own exemplary police and fire departments, because this was happening in every community in the region. Ed Kelly coordinated the operations that I am convinced saved lives in this community. Before anyone else was thinking about evacuations, Ed secured hundreds of hotel rooms on Route 1, so as most communities were piling people into gymnasiums on army cots, our disabled seniors and families, in a time of great need and loss, were given the dignity and privacy of a hotel room with whatever possessions they could take with them. He also had the foresight to make sure that their pets were cared for. Ed kept copious records of losses, both personal and public, and the extra time worked by City employees, some of whom were on the job for 48 hours straight. He knew the size of this storm would require federal reimbursement, and this documentation would be necessary to recoup those losses for the City and private citizens. While other communities were on their heels, Ed was already in contact with MEMA and FEMA and offering the Milano Center as a regional emergency reimbursement center—making it much easier for our citizens to file their claims once the storm was over. Due to Ed’s efforts, I was able to lead the command center at City Hall, along with our chiefs. In addition, the National Guard was dispatched to our City to help evacuate elderly complexes. Very few people witnessed the extraordinary efforts of Ed Kelly during this time. I will always remember him as a true hero during that time of crisis.
The second was during the evacuations of the Steele House, the Fuller House, and the Levi Gould House during heating emergencies and floods. The people who live in these buildings often have medical conditions, most are elderly, and some have few family members in the area to help them. Moving anyone of that age is a very delicate and at times dangerous endeavor. The care with which he treated these individuals and planned their departure could not have been accomplished by the best social worker. He was a compassionate and caring man.
It is in times of crisis that individuals stand up to be counted and don’t back away from a difficult situation but choose to lead. Ed Kelly was one of those individuals.
The City of Melrose mourns the loss of Ed Kelly, and we thank his family for sharing him with us.