Posted: Thursday, December 01, 2011 at 15:04
Published by The Spirit on December 1, 2011
By Jeff Kilpatrick
At this point, I am sure you have heard the story of Shane Kelly’s murder. It is a distressing fact of life that good news does not spread nearly as fast or as far as news of a tragedy. For some reason, stories of tragedy, loss, death, fear, and heartache resonate so quickly and spread through communities and the media with such intensity. These stories can leave a painful echo and tarnish the memories of those who lived.
However, in the wake of such loss and tragedy, we try to hold on to the hope that some good may possibly come from this. Mimi Doyne, mother of Shane’s girlfriend Maryelise Doyne, contacted The Spirit last week. Her request was simple and direct: she wanted more people to know Shane as he lived, not as he died. So she gathered many of Shane’s closest friends and family members together on the second floor of the AOH Division 61 clubhouse in Tacony on Saturday afternoon.
Aside from Maryelise, Mimi and her husband Dennis, Shane’s parents, his brother Brian and sister Melissa also joined the group. Friends who came to support and share stories were: Chris Baker, Erin Lyons, Phil Maher, Chris Flite, Kelly Flite, Neva Armstrong, Jackie Nitka, Jay Heron, Tom Byrne, Jon Schernaecke, Jim Heron, Crystal Shepherd, and Shaun Flite. Jack Gill, President of AOH Division 61, was also in attendance.
They all came to share stories of Shane as he lived, not as he died. The group cried some, but laughed more. They searched back in their memories as far as they could. "Shane was always quiet as a baby," his mother said, "except when he was away from his brother and sisters. When we left him alone with his aunt for the first time as a baby, he roared all day."
Some of the friends in the room were the same friends Shane had since Kindergarten. Erin Lyons called this group, "The Crafton Street Critters." To listen to the stories from Erin, the Flites, and Shane’s parents, these kids lived a childhood resembling "The Little Rascals." On Crafton Street, the gang would play the days away with games like "Jailbreak" and "Run the Bases." They would have Rummy card tournaments. Mrs. Kelly would pack as many kids that would fit into her truck and take them to the pool or playground. "We were very lucky," she said, "Those kids had a great life. We didn’t have a lot of money, but they had so much fun together, and time." Kelly Flite seconded that sentiment, stating, "We had the greatest childhood that anyone could ever had."
From all accounts, Shane was always at the center of any activity his friends were involved in. From the way his friend Jon tells it, "Shane was the centerpiece that held us all together." Even as a young man, Shane was said to be a born leader by all of his friends. He was President of his graduating class at Frankford High in 2002. He loved sports and coached and played for several teams for AOH 61 and beyond. When he played soccer, although he may not have been really fast, Jon said, "Shane’s foot work was amazing. He had the ball on a string."
Shane Kelly also had a reputation for having a great sense of humor and being quite the prankster, constantly playing what friends called, "Shane-nannigans". One example is how Shane and his lifelong friend Shaun Flite started a food fight in Frankford High School’s cafeteria. Then they inched away from the crowd to sit back and watch their handiwork and laugh. His sister Melissa said that’s how he often handled his jokes – to start everyone up, then slip away laughing.
From what his friends say, Shane’s hijinks were really just a result of him wanting to see people laugh and smile. It did not matter if he knew you for twenty years or twenty minutes, that was his goal. Jon said, "You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t like him." Chris Baker, whose forearm showed a fresh tattoo in Shane’s memory, called Shane Kelly "the most genuine, most honest person you ever wanted to meet, and he was always there to back you up."
It seems that Shane was there to back a lot of people up. We asked for a show of hands of friends that Shane helped get a job at Jefferson, where he worked as a pharmacy tech specialist. It seemed like half the room raised their hands. Phil Maher, a friend Shane helped get into Jefferson said, "Shane was everyone’s safety net, and he could do anything."
Shane’s mother and father did not raise him to judge people. He had a reputation for bringing out the best in everyone he knew. The crew reminisced that even as a kid, Shane Kelly was always a friend to older people. For instance, once when he was a young boy, Shane was adamant that they take an older woman, a neighbor from the block, to a drive-in movie with all the kids. Furthermore, when talking about how Shane helped take care of her sick father, Mimi referred to Shane as "an angel."
Shane’s charity reached beyond his family or personal group of friends. A few days before meeting with Shane’s friends and family, I spoke to John Hagan, a longtime member of AOH Division 61. "Shane was a rising star. He had his hand up to volunteer for everything. You rarely see that kind of charity and enthusiasm from younger members." Jack Gill supported Hagan’s assessment, saying, "There is no doubt in my mind that Shane would have succeeded me as President. When a lot of people volunteer, you know that you’re going to have to wind up doing most of the work. With Shane, we always knew we could count on him. He was always on the move, but I knew if he said he was going to do something, it would be done." He got many of his friends involved in the AOH. Kelly Flite stated, "We had something to do every week because of Shane."
From what Shane’s friends told me, his last day was actually a great day. To begin the day, Shane attended a mass with Maryelise in memory of her recently deceased grandfather. He played paintball with all of his friends, stopped by the AOH clubhouse, saw some old soccer buddies in Fishtown, all before spending the evening out and about with his girl Maryelise and a gang of his best friends. He had an awesome day, filled with good times.
Sadly, that day ended in the worst possible way. However, Shane’s mom said, "As bad as some people are, there were a lot of great people sent to help us." She spoke of the man and woman who stopped to help after Shane was shot. She spoke fondly of the police officer who drove Shane to the hospital in his car instead of waiting for the rescue squad. Mrs. Kelly spoke of the surgeon who gave one hundred percent, who genuinely looked defeated that he could not save Shane’s life. And she spoke of his friends and family, grateful to be there with Shane at the hospital at the very end.
Mr. and Mrs. Kelly wanted to thank the good neighbors in Fishtown for being so supportive. The Kelly family was deeply moved by the candlelight vigil held in Shane’s memory. They were also amazed at the outpouring of support during Shane’s wake and funeral services, where there seemed to be well over a thousand people who came to pay their respects. Funny thing is, months before, at Maryelise’s grandfather’s wake, Shane joked around, saying, "I’d have to pay to have this many people at my wake."
I hope those reading this think of Shane Kelly as his friends and family do – a strong, young man who reveled in the happiness of others. In his far too short time on this earth, he did great things. Shane lived a full life, and he lives on through those he loved. His girlfriend Maryelise, his family and his friends carry his strength with them. They are holding each other up every day, and holding on to the love that Shane had for all of them.
Posted: Sunday, October 30, 2011 at 06:54
On Saturday, October 22nd, Division 61 of the AOH, along with many of our friends and family members, gathered at St Dom's Marian Hall to hold the 16th Annual Crab Derby. The crab races went off without a hitch, as participants placed bets and played other games of chance. Although, the real stars of the show were the crabs, some of whom who were sacrificed for our dining pleasure, while others where chosen to race. The racing crabs were set free in the river. We're not totally sure that being set free in the river is a better fate than being dropped in a pot of boiling water, but at least they have a fighting chance. From my vantage point, fun and good food was had by all. Thank you to all of you who attended.
Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 16:53
The Shave The Way event at Division 61 was a roaring success. Tommy Byrne sacrificed his long locks to raise money for the St Baldrick’s Children’s Cancer Fund. The entire Byrne family provided the delicious food, while Division 61’s own Raymond Coleman provided the entertainment with a couple sets of Irish songs, while several people in the crowded club took turns cutting Tommy’s hair.