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Mike Would Have Loved It

March 20, 2004

The Irish Voice

By Tom Deignan

How often are you going to get the likes of Donald Trump, TV talkmeisters Bill O’Reilly and Tina Brown, and a gaggle of opinionated writerly types in the same room and have them all set their egos aside.

 

That very thing happened on St. Patrick’s evening at Michael’s on West 55th Street. That was when the long-anticipated Kelly Gang fundraiser for journalist and editor, Michael Kelly, who died while covering the war in Iraq, was held.

 

Kelly’s wife Madelyn, and two young sons, Tom and Jack, were on hand for the event, as were Kelly’s parents Thomas and Marguerite, both journalists themselves.

 

All in all, about $30,000 was raised for the young Kelly boys, according to New York Post media columnist Keith Kelly. Along with teamster-turned-novelist Tom Kelly, Keith was among those who helped organize the event.

 

Checks are still coming in, Keith Kelly told the Irish Voice on Tuesday. I thought it went spectacularly well. I think the best part about it was that the Kelly family had a real good day and realized there is this whole great emotional support network out there for Michael. He was a much-beloved journalist.

 

Keith Kelly added that he had just received a note which he took as the supreme compliment  about the evening.

 

I just got an e-mail from Mike’s parents, they told me they think Mike would have loved the party.

 

Keith Kelly actually marched up Fifth Avenue in the big parade with Mike Kelly’s widow and their young sons. The family was flown into New York earlier in the week by Mr. Apprentice  himself, The Donald.

 

But while Trump, O’Reilly and others made a big entrance at Michael’s last week, all of the over 150 on hand for the Kelly fundraiser were able to focus their attention on Mike Kelly’s family.

 

Kelly’s longtime friend, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, was among those who remembered Michael, and read from his work.

 

Upon learning of Kelly’s tragic death last year, it was Dowd who was reminded of Pat Moynihan and what he said following the assassination of JFK.

 

I don’t think there’s any point being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.

 

Kelly was killed last April when his vehicle swerved off the road while traveling with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. He was the first American journalist to die in the war.

 

Perhaps the highlight of the evening last week was Kelly’s older son Tom. Despite the obviously sad aspect to the evening, Tom had the crowd laughing breathlessly as he read some of his Dad’s letters from Iraq, educating the audience on some of the finer points of his father’s undergarment-wearing habits.

 

Spirited dancing and pipers also kept the crowd’s spirits up.

 

At the time of his death, Kelly, who grew up in Washington D.C. , was the editor-at-large for the Atlantic Monthly and a Washington Post columnist. He previously served as editor of the New Republic and National Journal.

 

A few years earlier he became editor of The Atlantic and was widely credited with reviving the 150-year old magazine, transforming it from a staid journal into a current events must-read with strong literary leanings.

 

The Kelly Gang, meanwhile, began informally about five years ago, around the time Jim Kelly was named editor at Time, Ed Kelly was named president at American Express.

 

Police commissioner Ray Kelly, also in attendance at last week, alongside his son Greg, a Fox News correspondent, signed on and suddenly the Kelly Gang was a high profile crew meeting regularly.

 

St. Patrick’s Day, of course, was a required get-together day.

 

Mike Kelly was based in Washington and Boston, but he met up with the Kelly crew several times in New York and made quite an impression.

 

It certainly didn’t hurt that Mike Kelly was born on March 17.

 

Kelly was planning to attend the St. Patrick’s Day meeting in 2003, but went off to cover the Iraq war instead. Three weeks later he was killed.

 

Though organizing the event was lots of work, Keith Kelly first and foremost was glad to help the Kelly family.

 

He added: “The beauty of it is that you had people who normally would not be getting together, getting together. People who would not normally go out on St. Patrick’s Day were there. And it wasn’t all Kellys, or all Irish,” Kelly said, mentioning the likes of New Yorker editor David Remnick and many others.

 

Nevertheless, there were lots of Kellys there. The late, great Mike Kelly among them. Loving every minute of it. 

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