Bob Kelly (Photo by Lauren Law)

Bob Kelly (Photo by Lauren Law)

From sales to sailing, Preston Hollow resident Bob Kelly has done it all

Bob Kelly, age 81, warned a neighbor against chasing drug dealers near Crestline Park in the Schreiber area, which some refer to as North Preston Hollow. “We informed her that [the dealers] usually had guns and that she might be shot. Once, I told her to stop and call 911 and she did,” he says.

Kelly has headed Schreiber Crime Watch (SCW) since 2009. He works with six area section leaders and 52 block captains to keep neighbors informed about crime in the area, advocating for car VIN etching, reflective crime watch signs and no solicitation stickers. He also attends quarterly crime watch meetings with ranking police officers and meets monthly with Dallas Police Department’s Northwest Patrol officer, Dion Burnside.

Kelly and his team always preach the same advice to residents: be alert, be aware, be safe, and if you see something or someone suspicious, call 911. To deter crime, he says more people should volunteer and host block parties to establish community.

Prior to joining SCW, Kelly worked for many years as a salesperson for Fortune 500 companies like Vick Chemical Company, Gillette and Pillsbury. After one too many cold springs, shoveling snow in a 55 below zero wind chill in St. Paul, Minn., he said to his wife, Shirley, “We’re out of here!”

In 1971, the Kellys set their sights on Dallas where he had work opportunities. In 1985 he set off on his own to launch Kelly Sales, Inc. a manufacturers sales rep business, selling health and beauty care products, drug sundries and general merchandise including toys from Mattel and Fisher-Price.

Kelly recalls that the February after starting Kelly Sales, he made $811, not even enough to pay his mortgage. To this day, his four kids never forget that he kept going and turned the business into a successful agency.

Kelly once asked his kids to describe him in 10 words or less. Kathy, then age 8, summed it up best, saying, “Dad, you are fair.”

It meant the world to  him. “I hope it is on my tombstone,” he says.

Kelly loved owning a business, but the stress started to build and he found himself needing an outlet. One of the things he enjoyed was going on boat trips.

As part of Elderhostel, which offers educational travel courses for people over 55, Kelly first sailed as a guest with 12 others on the 84-foot MV Rebecca out of Bellingham, Wash., an experience he treasured. After the trip, he was asked if he would like to come back as a vessel volunteer coordinator. Though he lived in Dallas that didn’t stop him, he made 10 trips with the MV Rebecca in the mid-90s, all over the San Juan Islands near Washington State.

As a volunteer coordinator he introduced the captain and cook and told guests about their working vacation, explaining that the boat was to be their classroom and home for a week. He taught them to clean the galley and ship; explained the shore trips; coordinated the talent show; and gave talks on Northwest history, tides and currents.

His efforts were so well-received, the owner of the The MV Rebecca asked Kelly to coordinate five trips on her other vessel, The Zodiac. He and his passengers traveled to the San Juan Islands and Desolation Sound in Canada, plus Victoria and Vancouver Island.

Kelly made three more trips on tall sailing ships—the Irving Johnson out of Long Beach, Calif. and two windjammers, the Victory Chimes and American Eagle, out of Camden, Maine.

Kelly remembers, “I was sailing on the Irving Johnson, a 126-foot schooner, going into Long Beach harbor. I had the helm as we passed port-to-port with an outgoing cruise liner. People were taking pictures so I took off my cap and waved to the cruise line passengers. I am probably in 100 vacation pictures as the guy driving the tall-masted ship.”

He put his sea legs to rest in 2008, but didn’t stop traveling. Kelly has visited 47 states, ventured to Ireland, Italy, Hungary and Germany and sailed the Danube River.

After nearly 70 years of working, heading up crime watch, coordinating ship trips and traveling, what’s next? A few years back, Kelly volunteered weekends for two years at Parkland Hospital’s nursery, holding babies. “If a hospital still has a program holding, changing, feeding and loving babies, that’s what I would like to volunteer to do,” he says.


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