Monica J. Kelly ’78

Monica J. Kelly ’78 died on May 03, 2024, in Camden, Maine.

(The following was provided by the Village Soup on May 07, 2024:)

Monica J. Kelly ’78

Camden – Loving mother, accomplished artist and champion of the arts and classical music, Monica Jean Kelly, succumbed to her battle with cancer on Friday, May 3, 2024. She passed in the company of her loving canine companion, Louie, her brother, John Kelly, her two sons, Conor and Angus, and her devout friend and caretaker, Kalla Bucholz.

Monica was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Dr. Hugh Kelly and Rita Giordano Kelly on Nov. 27, 1956. A bright and dedicated student, Monica excelled at St. Dominic’s in Shaker Heights, where she attended school alongside her brother John, and later at Hathaway Brown Girl’s school, where she was elected president of the student body.

The seeds of her lifelong love of classical music were sown by her mother. Rita, a native of Rome, hosted a weekly Italian-language music appreciation and education radio program focused on classical and opera. Monica studied piano from an early age, a passion that she maintained throughout her life and eventually imparted to her sons, giving each of them their first lessons.

Enticed by the serene beauty of Maine, Monica continued her education at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. She encountered many friends who she kept for life and a community of likeminded individuals driven to learn and grow. She graduated in 1978 with a degree in visual arts and art history and a profound love for the state of Maine, which became the setting for the story of her life and the inspiration for much of her artwork. Her connection to her alma mater went beyond her years on campus, as she worked in the admissions team reviewing applications for much of her life.

Upon graduating, she moved to western Massachusetts where she taught art to high school students. Having grown up with idiosyncratic and rather pampered dachshunds, it was during this time that she got her first dog of her own, Bailey, a golden retriever with a fantastic temperament.

When her father passed in 1983 at the age of 62, Monica returned to Ohio to live with and care for her mother. This act of love and support was emblematic of the way Monica lived her entire life — always putting the needs of others before her own.

Once back home, she enrolled in graduate studies in painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She attended their program in Lacoste, France where she studied painting and printmaking. During her stay abroad, she fell in love with Peter Pfister, an American working at the school.
Together, they moved back to the United States, spending time in San Francisco before ending up in New York City. In that mecca of art and culture, Monica honed her painting craft while working odd jobs such as painting fire escapes to support her passion.

In June of 1988, she married Peter in Larkspur, Colorado. A year later, in June 1989, Monica gave birth to their first son, Noah, at St. Francis Hospital in Manhattan. With a newborn, Monica felt a calling to return to Maine. The young family moved to Port Clyde in the winter before moving to Tenant’s Harbor and eventually Thomaston.

Two more sons would follow in 1991 and 1993 — Angus and Conor. Monica began to work one of the many miracles of her life in those early years of parenthood, caring for three boys and two Jack Russell puppies (Peewee and Maggie), as her husband returned to graduate school to pursue a degree in education.

All the while, she still found time to paint. Her career as an artist began to blossom as she showed her work in galleries throughout Maine, including Green Hut in Portland, CMCA, and many more. She has since participated in artists’ residencies at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and through National Audubon at Borestone Mountain in Guilford.

Beyond her three sons, Monica’s life work was in music. She became involved in the Midcoast classical music community by joining the board of Bay Chamber Concerts in 1996. While she appreciated the unique and magnificent work being done to bring classical performances to the area, Monica saw a growing need to transmit her love for the genre to the youth in Maine. A mission was born in her mind that began with the creation of the Odeon Youth Orchestra, a group she volunteered to run alongside Augusto Salazar, its conductor. Beginning with only a handful of children, the orchestra grew and grew via the unrelenting efforts she poured into it.

Ten years later, she joined Bay Chamber full time, as the director of education. Her success in the organization saw her named executive director in 2011 — a role she was immensely dedicated to until her final days, working alongside her dear friend and artistic director Manuel Bagorro, who was like a brother to her.

Add a Reminiscence:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *