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Aquarium of Niagara says founder has died

NIAGARA FALLS -- William E. Kelley Jr., founding president of the Aquarium of Niagara and a pioneer in the development of artificial seawater, has died, the Aquarium announced Thursday. He was 93.

Kelley, of Cottonwood, Ariz., developed the artificial seawater called Instant Ocean in a laboratory, and he opened the Aquarium of Niagara in 1965 as an Inland Oceanarium to showcase his achievement.

It was the first aquarium ever to exclusively use artificial seawater to maintain marine life.

Because of its innovative use of Kelley's research on chemicals to be used as a substitute for saltwater, "the Aquarium of Niagara has a significant place in the history and growth of public aquariums across the county," said Nancy Chapin, aquarium executive director.

Instant Ocean still is widely used in many public aquariums, university laboratories and home aquariums.

While Kelley was with the Aquarium of Niagara, he led an expedition to the Amazon, where he acquired a freshwater dolphin that was named Buster. The dolphin lived at the aquarium at 701 Whirlpool St. for many years and was a favorite among its visitors.

A native of Elyria, Ohio, Kelley was fascinated by the earth, the stars and the oceans at a young age, building crystal radio sets and his first telescope at age 10.

He was the former owner of W.E. Kelley Co., which sold and repaired cash registers and adding machines in Elyria.

He was an Army veteran of World War II and was the first president of the Cleveland Aquarium from 1954 to 1964. He became the founding president of Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut in 1973 and remained a member of the board of trustees there until his death. He was the author of many technical papers and articles.

Kelley died Feb. 8 in a health facility near his home. A memorial service was held Feb. 26 in Cottonwood, Ariz.

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