By Gary D. Myers and Keith Collier
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Doris Weisiger Kelley, mother of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley and Dorothy Kelley Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, died Sept. 19 at her home in New Orleans. She was 91.
While working as a secretary at First Baptist Church in San Antonio, she met a young Baptist layman Arkansas named Charles S. Kelley Sr. The two married June 6, 1942, and enjoyed 64 years of marriage until Mr. Kelley’s death in 2006.
The Kelleys moved to Beaumont, Texas, in the 1940s where Mr. Kelley was a managing partner of the Kelley-Hixson Funeral Home in Beaumont, and by 1965, he Kelley became the sole owner of what had grown into the area’s largest funeral firm. Mrs. Kelley served alongside her husband in the funeral home business for some 40 years.
The Kelleys were members of First Baptist Church in Beaumont for more than 50 years until they moved to New Orleans in 2002. Once there, Mrs. Kelley began serving at First Baptist Church in New Orleans where she was known as a “prayer warrior” and committed supporter of Southern Baptist mission work who attended Sunday school and worship every week until recently when her health declined.
The Kelley family remembers Mrs. Kelley as a dedicated mother and grandmother who wrote weekly cards and letters to her children and grandchildren.
“Every week, she wrote a family epistle known as ‘the pink letter,'” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. “The highest honor was to be mentioned in the letter. It always included family news, life happenings, prayer reminders and words of wisdom.”
Her cards and letters were not only reserved for family, though. Mrs. Kelley frequently wrote words of encouragement to pastors, ministers and family friends and an untold number of birthday cards, holiday cards and greeting cards to children, adults and people in all walks of life whom she had encountered. Each Monday, Mrs. Kelley wrote nearly 40 cards to members of First Baptist’s senior adult Sunday School class who were absent the day before.
“My mom had a passionate commitment to her Lord, her family and her church,” Chuck Kelley said.
Dorothy Patterson remembers her mother as the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman.
Anyone who crossed the path of my mother would agree that in her demeanor there was a unique sensitivity that set her apart from others,” Dorothy Patterson said. “She was known for tender compassions administered to those who passed through her life, and even in her senior years with its physical limitations, she was continually ‘losing her life’ by emptying herself in self-sacrificing service to others.”
Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson praised Mrs. Kelley for her Christlike demeanor and faithful encouragement to all.
“Mom Kelley was one of the most remarkable women of God that I have ever known,” Paige Patterson said. “Gentle, ardently practicing all the virtues championed by Christ, sacrificial, a woman of profound faith and effective prayer, Mrs. Kelley exemplified and rejoiced in her role as wife and mother. And as Solomon predicted, the whole family this day arises to call her blessed. Genuine nobility is a rare thing. And one of the few has slipped mortality and presented herself for an incredible reward.”
In addition to her ties to New Orleans Seminary and Southwestern Seminary, Kelley and her late husband were longtime supporters of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mr. Kelley served on Midwestern’s board of trustees for 10 years in the 1990s and 2000s. Midwestern honored the Kelleys with the Kelley Fireside Room in the seminary’s Koehn & Myers Center for World Evangelism. Endowed scholarships for women at both Southwestern Seminary and New Orleans Seminary were created in Doris Kelley’s honor in recent years.
Mrs. Kelley was born in San Antonio, Texas, on April 25, 1922, to Hood Daniel Weisiger and Emily Julia Pancoast English Weisiger. After she was orphaned at an early age, Mrs. Kelley was raised by her maternal grandparents. Growing up, Mrs. Kelley was an active member of First Baptist in San Antonio.
Mrs. Kelley is survived by five children, Dorothy Patterson, Kathy Kelley, Charlene Kelley Coe, Charles S. “Chuck” Kelley Jr. and Eileen Kelley Turrentine, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in her honor to Southwestern, New Orleans, Midwestern or Southeastern seminaries.
A celebration service was held in Leavell Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Sept. 21. A memorial service was also held at the Claybar Kelley-Watkins Funeral Home in Beaumont, Texas, Sept. 22.