Catholic Key associate editor leaves behind a wonderful legacy

Catholic Key associate editor Kevin Kelly during his early days at the Key.

by Todd Habiger
todd.habiger@theleaven.org

The Catholic press lost one of its best recently with the death of former Catholic Key associate editor Kevin Kelly.

My first job out of college in 1992 was as a reporter for the Catholic Key in Kansas City, Missouri. I was as green as brussel sprouts coming out of college. Nervous. Shy. Unsure.

Thankfully, Kevin served as my mentor, helping me though those tough beginnings. Despite our age difference, we had much in common. We both grew up in southeast Kansas — Kevin in Parsons, me in Iola. Kevin’s first job out of college was as a reporter for my hometown paper, The Iola Register.

But where we really bonded was over our love of baseball. Kevin was a huge baseball fan and a great Royals fan. Every year we would share our hopes and dreams of a Royals playoff appearance. Every year, about a month later, we would grumble about another lost season.

I was so happy that Kevin was able to see the Royals return to glory and win the 2015 World Series.

Kevin looked like your old-time journalist. He smoked. He was rumpled. His desk was a mess. But, boy, could he write.

As a journalist, Kevin was tireless. He loved journalism. He loved reporting. He loved telling people’s stories. He had no qualms about working several nights and weekends in a row if there was a good story to be told. He never complained; he just did his job and did it well.

As a young reporter, I was always amazed at how many articles Kevin could produce in a week. While I struggled to write two good stories, Kevin regularly churned out 5-6 articles a week. One of his favorite sayings was, “I’m better than anyone who’s faster and faster than anyone who’s better.”

Kevin was a pillar of his community. He was active in his parish of St. Therese Little Flower in Kansas City, Missouri. He helped the parish with several projects to improve the community and make it safe. He was also a huge advocate for social justice. In recent years, he was especially vocal in speaking out against payday loans.

Kevin worked at the Key for 25 years before retiring earlier this year. It did my heart good to see the large number of priests that attended his funeral. In his 25 years, he probably interviewed every priest in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph many times over. From the turnout at his funeral, you could tell it was appreciated.

I left the Key after two-and-a-half years to come work for The Leaven, but still maintained contact with Kevin. I’ll always be grateful to him for helping me grow as a journalist.

He was a great mentor. But more importantly, he was a great friend.

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