WAC gym named for Club legend

Roger Kelly Court marks a milestone for the WAC Foundation 

By Darrick Meneken, Content Director

To those who knew him in life, Roger Kelly was a retired U.S. Marine tank commander and helicopter pilot, a successful businessman, a Seafair pirate, a supporter of many Seattle nonprofits, and a tough basketball player with giant hands. “Roger tended to be a larger-than-life character,” recalls longtime WAC member and friend Kirk Clothier. “He gave back to the community in so many ways.”

At the WAC, friends most remember Roger as the driving force behind the over-40 basketball league, which later morphed into the over-50 league and the over-60 league. Roger, who himself “retired” from basketball two or three times only to return to the court, played into his sixties. His death in 2006 at age 69 shocked the WAC community and especially players in the basketball league.

“All of us who remember Roger remember him saying. ‘What do you mean we’re going to stop playing?’” Kirk says. “The over-40 leagues have provided so many of us the opportunity to keep playing.”

Fourteen years after his passing, Roger’s kindness and friendship still stick with those who knew him. In honor of his life and legacy, a group of friends, family, and WAC members recently raised $100,000 for the WAC Foundation to name the 8th Floor gym Roger Kelly Court.

“It’s a great legacy for my dad,” says daughter and WAC member Kathleen Krekow, one of Roger’s three children. As a child, Kathleen spent Saturday mornings at the WAC. While her dad played basketball, she and her siblings would often explore the Clubhouse. “The WAC has played a huge part in all our lives,” she says.

Roger served on the WAC Board of Governors and on the boards of The Salvation Army, Virginia Mason, and Seafair, which he chaired for a year. He also supported The Forgotten Children’s Fund and dressed as Santa to deliver gifts to children in need.

“Roger was a very special person, particularly with respect to the WAC and particularly with respect to basketball,” friend and WAC member Jim Farmer recalls. Jim moved to Seattle in 1976 and began working at the same firm as Roger. “Within a week, Roger was marching me down to the WAC and signing me up to join,” Jim says.

On the court, Roger stood out for his strength and resilience, playing long after doctors told him his knees could no longer take it. “He was a hard-nosed player that loved the game,” says Kirk.

When Roger pushed for the idea of an over-40 league, it created an avenue for many members to keep playing the sport. “None of that would exist if it weren’t for the energy and the organizational skills of Roger Kelly,” Jim says. “I think it’s eminently appropriate to name the basketball court after him.”

Roger’s wife, Linda, lives not far from the WAC. She recalls the Club’s overwhelming support following Roger’s death, including hosting his wake as well as a celebration of his life. Linda can think of no better tribute to Roger’s legacy than the naming of Roger Kelly Court.

“When he died, I walked around Seward Park and noticed there were benches that had plaques at the base of them in remembrance of husbands and fathers,” Linda says. “I thought about that seriously. Then I decided no. Roger would never have sat on a park bench for very long. He would much rather be moving and keeping healthy.”

The Roger Kelly Court logo features a basketball and a four-leaf clover. “We’re thrilled to recognize WAC basketball legend Roger Kelly by naming the basketball court in his honor,” says WAC Foundation President Tammy Young. “The generous gifts of his family and friends recognize Roger’s lasting contribution to the WAC.”

WAC President & CEO Chuck Nelson agrees, saying: “This is a great example of member legacies being honored through the WAC Foundation.”

As published in the September/October 2020 issue of WAC Magazine

—Posted September 3, 2020

 

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