A fond farewell for Police Chief Gary Kelley
Community mourns loss of longtime local law enforcement figure to COVID-19
By JOHN RECH
The coronavirus has claimed the life of a beloved Marion public figure.
Police Chief Gary Kelley passed away Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. The police department said his family was by his side and confirmed the death was related to the pandemic. Kelley had been hospitalized for with COVID-19 and remained on a ventilator for more nearly a month.
Most citizens knew Kelley because he was out and about in the city daily. He monitored the police radio almost constantly and would often weigh in with directions or questions over the air whether he was on the go, at the scene, or in his office at the front room of
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Many folks in Marion will remember Gary Kelley out in public at mealtime. Whether it was breakfast at the Waffle and Pancake House or a lunch at Tacker’s Shake Shack (pictured here) the late chief always seemed to be in the company of others at the dining table.
Photo courtesy Facebook
Gary Kelley stood ton the right of the Marion Police mascot at Christmas on the Square in 2019. The chief was a visible part of the community fabric and enjoyed public events like this by escorting Santa into the big city Christmas party.
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the Marion Police station. If there was a public event in the city, Kelley was sure to be there. Kelley was the face of the Marion Police department. The chief could be found dining out in the city for breakfast or lunch most any weekday and the seats at his table were always full with other police officers, or community leaders. He never ate alone.
Organizations often assume the attitude of its leader. The MPD was no different. Because of Kelley’s friendliness, it enjoyed the reputation of a working family environment long before it was in vogue to say so.
“He was very friendly,” said Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen. “If someone walked in front of his office with out saying hi or stopping for a short chat, he’d call out to them for a word. He established a genuine family atmosphere at the Marion police department.”
The chief was a county native and grew up around Horseshoe Lake and schooled in Hughes. Kelley served as the city police chief for 13 years. He began his law enforcement career in January of 1978 as a reserve deputy with the Crittenden County Sheriff. He joined the Marion Police department in 1980. He and his predecessor John Griffin were the only full time police officers in the city. Griffin served as the city marshal before becoming the city’s first police chief. Kelley followed in his footsteps becoming the second chief in the city in December of 2007.
Fellow officers across the state respected the Marion chief. Kelley was voted 2011 chief of the year by the Arkansas Association of Chief of Police.
Kelley had scheduled to retire from the Marion police force at the end of February, but according to the sheriff it would not have been the end the of his career in law enforcement.
“He was not a retire and go to the lake kind of guy,” said Allen. “He loved law enforcement and I believe he would have continued police work in some from or fashion. He had well planned retirement and taken good care to provide for his family. He was a very good planner and he had all
“He was not a retire and go to the lake kind of guy. He loved law enforcement and I believe he would have continued police work in some from or fashion. He had well planned retirement and taken good care to provide for his family. He was a very good planner and he had all the details set.”
the details set.”
As part of his thorough retirement plan he worked with mayor Frank Fogelman to designate his successor as chief in Assistant Chief Brannon Hinkle.
Kelley was married to wife Charleen for 38 years. In death he did part from her, their only son Daniel, a school administrator, and brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. He was a member of Marion First United Methodist Church.
Sheriff Allen confirmed the Kelley’s genuine Christian faith.
“There is no doubt he is in heaven now,” said Allen. “He was a true believer that loved and wholeheartedly served the Lord Jesus.”
“Chief Kelley loved the city of Marion,” said Assistant Chief Brannon Hinkle. “The members of the Marion Police department will forever be at a loss for words over his passing. We will continue his legacy as he would have wanted and promise to make him proud.”
Marion Police headed the funeral precession to lay their beloved chief to rest on Saturday, Jan. 2.
Photos courtesy Facebook
Marion Police folded the United States flag as a final salute honoring Chief Gary Kelley.