The same day that West Virginians were honoring Sen. Robert Byrd with a grand ceremony at the gold-domed state capital in Charleston, a much smaller memorial was being held an hour north in the town of Parkersburg for my friend and professional mentor, Bob Kelly.
B.K. gave me first job at a newspaper when I was 17 — writing night sports. Over the years that followed, he taught me how to write, how to handle powerful people, how to make ordinary people want to tell you their stories and how to take the work of newspapering seriously without taking myself seriously.
As I work on a piece, I can still hear him telling me to “pack it with detail” or “say what you mean.” It still helps.
In my years in Washington, my relationship with Bob, especially as his health faltered, had come down to emails of appreciation for something one of us had written and the occasional phone call to talk politics.
He could be counted to begin with something like “Next time you talk to Obama, tell him…” or “What are you doing, getting ready for the next Georgetown party?” And I’d tell him that they don’t let hillbillies into the White House or Georgetown, and we’d have a little laugh and I’d get a little lesson about the dangers of big-shotitis.
I hope he would have found it funny that while his friends and family were eulogizing him in a little church, I was in studio taping a panel show as a talking head.
Bob died at 62, leaving behind a wife and a daughter who have my deep sympathy. He also leaves behind dozens of journalists who were better for having known him and a state that was better for his ministrations