Dec. 15, 1940 – Jan. 15, 2019
Richard G. Kelly worked hard at his trucking and excavation business. Although he had always been religious, he often was busy seven days a week, too busy to attend church services.
Then he received what he considered to be a message from God.
He was inflating a tire that he had mounted on a wheel rim in May 1990 when the tire exploded. His right hand was severely fractured. He could have been killed.
“If he hadn’t turned his head, he wouldn’t have been here,” his wife, Gloria, said. “The guardian angel, Jesus, saved him. Until then he’d worked on Sundays and that just changed him.”
Mr. Kelly never again missed a Sunday service. After he moved to Conewango in Cattaraugus County, he became a pillar of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Randolph. He served as a Eucharistic minister, altar server, groundskeeper and maintenance man. He assisted his wife with religious instruction classes.
For 20 years, he also took part in the Collins Christian Ministry, serving the spiritual needs of inmates in Collins Correctional Facility.
He died Jan. 15 in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga, after a long illness. He was 78.
Born in Hamburg, one of five children, he graduated from SS. Peter and Paul School, then worked as a teen on farms and with trucking companies, learning to operate heavy equipment.
In the 1960s, he started his own company — Kelly Trucking and Excavation in Hamburg.
Known as Dicky Digger, he was highly regarded for his skill in operating backhoes, bulldozers, dump trucks and other earth-moving equipment.
After the tire explosion left him with limited use of his right hand, he was unable to operate most machinery. He continued running the business until 1996, then sold it and retired.
He built a home with the help of Amish carpenters in rural Conewango Valley and, at the urging of Amish residents, ran successfully for Conewango Town Council in 2007. He served one term on the board, which included a stint as deputy supervisor. In recent years, he lived in North Collins.
He and the former Gloria J. Robinson, a retired directory assistance supervisor for New York Telephone Co. and Nynex, were married in 1994 at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Hamburg.
Survivors include a son, James N.; a daughter, Mary Duchmann; a brother, Raymond; two sisters, Dorothy Clouting and Katherine Ristine; six grandchildren and a great-grandson.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Monday, Jan. 21, in St. Patrick’s Church, 189 Main St., Randolph.