Earl C. Kelley of Concord passed away on July 9th, 2018.
Born in Concord on March 1st, 1925 to the late Bertie Miller Kelley and the late J. D. Kelley, Mr. Kelley graduated from Harrisburg High School in 1942.
Mr. Kelley (Earl or “Kelley” to those who knew him), volunteered to serve his county in WW II, joining the U. S. Navy as a radioman from 1943 to 1946 with service in the European Theater including North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Belgium, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
He was part of the Normandy Invasion on D-Day on June 6th, 1944 and following. Later, on April 9th, 1945 at 9:26 p.m., his ship along with three others were torpedoed and sunk in the English Channel by German E-boats.
After the Navy, Mr. Kelley attended N.C. State University before joining the staff of the Concord Tribune where he served as Sports Editor and, later News Director.
He became the first Public Relations Director at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He served next as the Executive Director of the National Sportscasters and Sports Writers Association before purchasing Carolina Distributors on N. Church Street in Concord in 1966, renaming it Kelley Auto Parts which he owned and operated for many years.
He never really retired. After he sold Kelley Auto Parts in 1988, he worked part-time at Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts in Concord until just a few years ago, a place that was more like family than work for him and where the team there treated him like family until the very end of his life.
A radio and public address announcer, Mr. Kelley was member of the Universal Racing Network, the first radio network to broadcast NASCAR races live as well as serving as the PA announcer from the very beginnings of NASCAR at many NASCAR tracks before hanging up his microphone after the North Wilkesboro Speedway’s final race in 1996, capping well over 40 years of NASCAR announcing. He also covered NASCAR as a print journalist since its inception in 1948 for publications such as National Speed Sport News and served as a PA announcer and reporter for various forms of stock car racing prior to the formation of NASCAR.
Mr. Kelley was also the long-time ‘Voice of the Spiders’ as Concord High School Football’s public address announcer during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
Former President of the Concord Jaycees and a former member of both the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs, Mr. Kelley also served on the board of directors of the Concord Boys and Girls Club. For over 50 years, Mr. Kelley was a member of American Legion Post 51 in Concord.
A long-time member of the First Presbyterian Church of Concord, among his service were terms as a Deacon, an Elder, as well as Clerk of the Session. And, he served on the Board of Trustees of the Memorial Gardens of First Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Kelley had many rich friendships in Concord and Cabarrus County. Taking up golf as an adult and self-taught, he became a fairly good golfer. He enjoyed playing with his friends, golf trips with his golfing crowd where he also made the foursome pairings and kept the total scores for the groups even after he hung up his clubs. Even during his last few years, he still thoroughly enjoyed watching golf coverage.
He also enjoyed and felt blessed by his work colleagues and his friends throughout his life, including those in racing, at Kelley Auto Parts, Carpenter’s, his weekly senior dining partners, his golfing friends, and those made or renewed later in life at the Senior Center and other venues where he enjoyed the fellowship and country music; and, where, often, those entertaining would invite Earl to sit in with them on the guitar with them well into his 90s.
Mr. Kelley was also preceded in death by his brothers J. D. Kelley and Glenn Kelley and Sister Betty Kelley Rice Wilkinson. Mr. Kelley is survived by his sons Clif Kelley of High Point, Winston Kelley of Charlotte and Winston’s most special friend Elaine Jenkins, and Lee Kelley and his wife, Denay, of Nashville, TN as well as his two grandsons, Harrison (Clif) of High Point and Dylan (Lee) of Nashville. He is also survived by nieces Leslie Kelley White and husband Dorson of Greenville. NC and Patricia Kelley McLeod and husband Bud of Charlotte along with their families as well as sister-in-law Zelda Kelley of Charlotte (J.D.)
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be given in Mr. Kelley’s name to the Concord Boys and Girls Club or Concord’s First Presbyterian Church.
There will be a private committal service for immediate family after which Mr. Kelley will be interned in the Columbarium at the Memorial Gardens of First Presbyterian Church in Concord.
On-line condolences may be left at www.wilkinsonfuneralhome.com
The family is being assisted by Wilkinson’s Funeral Home.