Obituary: Robert C. Kelly / Basketball standout kept sports in his life as referee

October 25, 1935 - May 11, 2014

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Robert C. "Bob" Kelly dedicated his life to being fair and just, and he displayed those traits every time he went to work as a referee.

Mr. Kelly of North Versailles refereed football games at high schools and small colleges for 32 years.

"Everything ran smoothly when he was on the field," said Jack Hanlon, a longtime referee with Mr. Kelly. "He was a well-liked referee who never got himself into a sticky situation. He was a very kind, good-hearted person."

Mr. Kelly died Sunday at age 78. Sports played a big role throughout his life. He was a standout basketball player at the former East Pittsburgh High School and received an athletic scholarship to play basketball at Waynesburg University.

"Nothing could ever replace his love for sports," said Mr. Kelly's wife, Rita. "He lived and died by sports. He was so into it that the teenage boys used to come to our neighborhood door and ask him to play basketball with them, and he did."

After college, Mr. Kelly served in the U.S. Army. He worked as an industrial engineer at Westinghouse in East Pittsburgh before retiring after 32 years.

He continued his involvement with sports by working as an official as part of the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials. His work as a referee landed him a spot in the East Boros Chapter of the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame in 1987. He also served on the Hall of Fame board and was a past president.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Kelly is survived by a daughter, Michelle Cox of Regent Square; a brother, Paul Kelly; two sisters, Betty Jean Lawson and Sharon Vrontos; and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today and Wednesday at Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home, 700 Linden Ave., East Pittsburgh.

A Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Colman Church. Interment with military honors will follow at St. Joseph Cemetery.

Ryan Petrovich:

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