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County historian Janette Kelley dies

Posted: March 10, 2013 - 1:04am
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FILE  County historian and author Janette S. Kelley died Wednesday.   Valerie Rowell
Valerie Rowell
FILE County historian and author Janette S. Kelley died Wednesday.

Columbia County lost a historian Wednesday with the death of Janette S. Kelley.

Kelley, 73, was one of the first historians to compile the county’s history into a book.

“She was one of the first who really went to a lot of trouble to write a history of the county,” said Barbara Seaborn, a fellow author of county history.

Kelley published two books about the county – Our Heritage: Personalities, 1754-1983, Columbia County, Georgia and Columbia County, Then and Now.

Kelley’s son, William Kelley, said his mother was a Columbia County native and had a passion for county history. She was a longtime columnist for The Columbia County News-Times and a member of the Columbia County Historical Society.

“She was so interested in the history,” Seaborn said. “She worked and worked and worked. She was a tireless worker.”

Seaborn honored Kelley by organizing Janette Kelley Day at Lake Crossing Health Center, where Kelley lived in Appling, in May 2012. The pair talked to a packed room about their respective history books.

Kelley also worked hard to serve others. She and her late husband, John, often traveled doing mission work and would cook meals for those working on the scene of natural disasters such as hurricane Andrew.

“I think Mom and Daddy hit about all of them,” Kelley’s son said.

After losing her husband and retiring from the Columbia County Board of Education, Kelley continued the mission work and cooked Wednesday night supper for the members of her church, Powell Baptist, for many years.

After graduating from Harlem High School, Kelley got a Masters degree in early childhood education and taught briefly. She later returned to the school system, working in the cafeterias.

Kelley’s son said she was a very good cook and a strong-willed woman.

“She was a sweet woman,” he said. “But she was determined, you might say.”

Kelley is survived by two sons, John William and Leonard Joe; a daughter, Nancy Cadle; four brothers, Tommy Sr., Freddie, Davey and Randy Story; a sister, Debbie Mensing; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Saturday.

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