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Miles Kelly & writing the history of good

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POSTED July 7, 2014 12:20 a.m.

As books go, the history of good is a slim volume.

It’s not because evil dominates. The written word, electronic and otherwise, is driven by man’s obsession with aberrations.  The countless successful small business folks that treat their employees and customers well and share their modest success through community donations are eclipsed by the stories of a handful of wheeler dealers that creates the forecloures crisis. The comfort and profound sense of belonging that men and women of the cloth convey to hundreds of millions are overshadowed by a relatively handful of depraved individuals that mock their vows.

There are endless shining examples of goodness that grace this earth for a short time.

One of them was Miles Kelley.

Miles passed away June 29 following a lengthy illness at the age of 62.

If you’d ever met Miles, your first thought might be that he was nothing out of the ordinary. He was a hard working man who loved his family, treasured his community and had a place in his heart always for the underdog and downtrodden.

But that is exactly what made Miles and an endless parade of others like him extraordinary. They care. They love life. They do the right thing. They are passionate in their beliefs, whether it is family or faith.

We tend to ignore their passing because they weren’t celebrities whose fame is measured in film credits, record sales, fortunes, or criminal notoriety.

Miles resided in Manteca most of his life. His parents were Jack and Trena Kelley — two souls who interwove their lives with the fabric of Manteca. Trena who passed away several years ago, is best known for being both the first elected mayor and the first woman mayor of Manteca as well as holding her head high and continuing in community service after the first and nastiest recall in Manteca history. Jack served for years on the Manteca Unified School board. Both had a long list of community endeavors and acts of kindness that could easily fill this page. But perhaps their greatest achievement was instilling in their children a sense of compassion and keeping one’s word. They were lessons that served Miles for a lifetime.

Childhood for Miles was the Fricot Ranch School in the Sierra foothills where he was among the 100 family members of the staff that watched over 200 wayward boys. Miles loved to roam the trails and backwoods, climb trees, pick berries, and traverse creek beds as a young boy.

Since they could only receive one TV channel, the Kelley siblings entertained themselves and others by staging plays and performing. It was during what he often described as his idyllic childhood that he found himself drifting toward older people. He was fascinated by their stories. It helped him developed a deep appreciation of history as well as the tales of the Gold Country.

Over the years his kinship with the elderly grew stronger. Miles savored simply visiting and listening to seniors. He started going to the Manteca Senior Center as regular before turning the minimum of 50. And— almost up until his death — he was constantly advocating for the elderly much like his mother Trena did.

His love of song led to him singing at a large gathering of Boy Scouts at the Cow Palace as a child and to devote three years to the Melody Makers Barbershop Quarter in Modesto as an adult.

As a teen, his family moved to Manteca. Miles threw the shot put for the Manteca High track team, wrestled, belonged to Key Club and was an active participant in choir and choir clubs before walking across the stage in 1971 at Gus Schemidt Field.

He is perhaps the only Manteca High Key Club member to eventually become president of the Manteca Kiwanis and co-chair the Manteca Pumpkin Fair.

He attended Brigham Young University majoring in history and later graduated from Sacramento State University with a degree in communications. Miles labored as an engineer with Southern Pacific Railroad before launching a career with Dunn and Bradstreet where he was honored as the top salesman for Northern California.

Along the way he met his beloved former wife, Ruth. They had three children: Bryant, Heidi, and Cameron.

Not only did he fall in love with Ruth but also her faith — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The former Southern Baptist was a rock solid believer who loved his ward and cherished the Mormons’ strong emphasis on family.

His life was filled with countless acts of kindness.

Like all the Kelly children, Miles started working at an early age. One of his first jobs was as a gas jockey for the former Union 76 station at Northwoods and Yosemite avenues. It was there that he meet two hitchhikers from England. He surprised his parents by bringing them home with him for dinner. They stayed for three days enjoying the Kelley family hospitality and their eagerness to show off the area.

Besides helping seniors when he could, Miles made it a point to seek out the down-on-their-luck and those struggling for acceptance to perform small jobs around his home. He paid them and fed them.

In short, Miles’ life was lived striving to do the right thing and reaching out to others.  The world has millions of Miles and it’s lucky to have them for whatever time they can dance on this earth.

Services for Miles are Saturday, July 19, at 10 a.m.  They are at the LDS Union Road Meeting House, 1233 Northgate Drive.

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