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James W. Kelly, 87

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Gone home to his maker, James "Jim" W. Kelly, also known as "JW," left this earth on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022.

He was born "on the kitchen floor" (as he said), on March 4, 1935, in the town of Washington to Mary (Dunn) and John J. Kelly. He grew up in rural Washington and Dalton with his five siblings. He attended grammar school at St. Mary's in Pittsfield, and later went on to Pittsfield High School. 

He and his brother, Don, worked for his father, John, at the Kelly Lumber operations in Pittsfield. Kelly Lumber grew to be the largest hardwood lumber operation in the East, exporting overseas 85 percent of all its dry-kilned and finished top furniture-grade hardwoods around the world. The company also operated Berkshire Pallet, which manufactured wooden pallets for shipping goods worldwide.

At 17, JW left school, and enlisted in the Seabees branch of the U.S. Navy, during the Korean War. In the Seabees, he worked on many projects on various islands in the Pacific, most notably Midway Island and the Philippines. When he returned from his time in the Navy, he went back to work for his father as a timber cruiser. 

It was not long before he met his future wife and love of his life, Dorothy "Dot" Godek of Adams. Without her, he would never have been able to accomplish the milestones he achieved. Shortly after marriage, JW brought Dot to Memphis, Tenn., where he attended the National Hardwood Lumber Association's Inspector Training School to further his expertise in the lumber business. They just got back to Pittsfield in time to have their first child. JW then went back to work for his father as a lumber grader and timber cruiser.

It was in 1964, that JW, cruising timber, bought a mountain in New Ashford for the lumber company. He was told that this mountain had great potential for a ski resort. JW liked the idea. Unbeknownst to his father, JW began clearing trees for ski trails, where he soon built the Brodie Mountain Ski Resort. JW soon left the lumber business to concentrate on the ski business. 

At the time of rustic ski areas, with T-bars, rope tows, and nitty-gritty lodges with loose stone floors, Brodie was a very unusual ski area of the time, offering chair lifts, and posh carpeted floors in the lodge, and even a classy restaurant and lounge. The lodge boasted the largest free-standing fieldstone chimney in the United States, with two huge indoor hearths. Everything was named on an Irish theme. The resort became known as "Kelly's Irish Alps" by the public. "The Blarney Room," the third and top floor of the ski lodge, became an instant hit with the locals, having a performance stage and a huge dance floor, with the tops in live entertainment, and attracting several hundreds of patrons at a time. Locals were treated to live performances of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frank Sinatra Jr., the Irish Clancy Brothers, the Irish Rovers, and many, many, more. Brodie even created its own house band, recruiting musicians straight from Ireland for many years. The Blarney Room now has legendary status with those who remember it.

1964 was the year JW opened Brodie for skiing, but there was only one problem -- no snow. That year, there had been one big blizzard early on, but it had mostly melted away. There were still some very large snow drifts along the city snow fences along Benedict Road, near the present Berkshire Hills Country Club. JW had the idea of using his father's big lumber hauling trucks and scooping up the snow drifts on Benedict hill and hauling the snow to New Ashford, where he spread it out on the "Harp's Hump" base trail. As it turned out, Brodie was just about the only place in the East to offer skiing for Christmas that year. An article in the New York Times sent skiers flocking to discover Brodie, which became an instant hit.

JW was not going to let a dearth of snow set him back again! The next year, in 1965, with his uncanny foresight, he installed the world's first top-to-bottom snow-making system. In 1967, he went on to install the world's first top-to-bottom lighting for night skiing operations. In 1969, JW invented and patented his "Hard Pak Pulverizer," a machine that ground hard-pack snow and ice into a fine powder. This concept is in wide use today at just about any ski area, and is now known as the modern "snow tiller."

At its height, Brodie Mountain Resort could boast Massachusetts' largest ski area, the family-oriented Brodie RV Campground, The Blarney Room Restaurant and Lounge, Kelly's Irish Pub, The Brodie Racquet Club, The Dublin House Motel, The Kerry House Motel, The Carriage House Motel, The Brodie XC Ski Touring Center, Kelly's Diner, The Paddy Advertising Agency, and Kelly Realty Company.

In 1981, Brodie pioneered wind power to offset energy use at the resort with the first known ski resort to have power generated by a wind turbine on top of the mountain. Brodie was also home to some of the longest-running pro ski races in the USA. All of JW's sons, and also his daughter worked at these various operations. Early on, the Kennedy family discovered Brodie and made it their Berkshire destination of many family outings for both skiing and camping.

Even off-season, Brodie quickly became the venue for all sorts of the largest gatherings; weddings, political rallies, car shows, and more. With a capacity of over 300, the Blarney room was busy catering and hosting many large events. JW was always heartened by a constant flow of people relating their fond memories of Brodie. The mission of Brodie was always to create a family atmosphere where three generations of the same family would be having fun together.

In 1984, after the retirement of his brother, Donald, JW took over management of the Kelly Hardwood Lumber operations in Pittsfield and left Brodie to be managed by his sons, Matt and Doug. JW built the large J.W. Kelly Steam & Electric Plant at the Pittsfield site, generating 3.5 megawatts of electricity from the wood waste scraps from the sawmill operations. In 1999, JW sold the Brodie operations to Brian Fairbank, operator of Jiminy Peak. Immediately bored with retirement, JW built and opened the Donnybrook Country Club in Lanesborough in 2008, creating (according to Yankee Magazine) "The biggest stone walls in New England," and was dubbed "The Rock Star of Lanesborough." JW still worked at Donnybrook seven days per week, as long as he was able.

JW leaves behind his wife of 67 years, Dorothy; their five children, Matthew (Mary), Andrew (Susan), Daniel, Jamie, and Douglas (Shelley); his sisters Patricia O'Connell, Gloria Slonski and Justine Brown; 10 grandchildren, Abby, Becky, Tessa, John, Audrey, Shaun, Rene, Megan, Veronica and Hayley; and 11 great-grandchildren. The grandkids will all miss JW's unique rendition of "The Preacher and the Bear."

He was predeceased by his brother Donald and sister Jean Disco. 

The family wishes to thank the staff at Springside Nursing Home and Dr. Barry Lobovitz for the excellent care JW received.

FUNERAL NOTICE: A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be held, Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, at 10 a.m. at St. Mark's Church, concelebrated by the Rev. Christopher Fedoryshyn, pastor, and the Rev. Peter A. Gregory. Burial with military honors will follow at St. Joseph's Cemetery.

Calling hours will be held, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, from 4 to 7 p.m. at DERY FUNERAL HOME, 54 Bradford St, Pittsfield. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in his name to St. Mark's Church or Soldier On in the care of the funeral home.

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My wife just came across this beautiful obituary for my dear cousin . We didn’t know of his passing. We last saw him and his wife, at his Aunt Gertie and Uncle Wilfred’s 50th anniversary in September of 1983. We have a fond memory of visiting with them when they came out to California in the late 60’s. We are so sorry for all the family , in this loss of such a wonderful man. Sincerely and with love, Justin and Joni Lampro
from: Justin Lamproon: 03-08-2023

Jim was my "cousin" and was a really wonderful and loving person with great imagination and creativity. He has left behind a great legacy in his children. I always felt that I was considered a close member of the family. I shall miss him dearly and send my condolences to his wife, Dot, and his children. His was a life lived to the full. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
from: ed godekon: 09-10-2022

My deepest condolences to all the Kelly family.

I always enjoyed listening to Jim's stories. He will be missed.
from: Bob Maxwellon: 09-07-2022

My sincere condolences to the entire Kelly family . . . and thank you Mr. Kelly for all the wonderful memories! The legend of you and Brodie Mt. will live on and on . . .
from: Sally (Gigliotti)Vanderzeeon: 09-07-2022

My deepest condolences and prayers for the Kelly family. Mr. Kelly would not know me from the proverbial hole in the ground, but he always greeted me as if I were family whenever I came to Donnybrook. He was a lovely man who has left a great legacy in his business and his family.
from: George Hayeson: 09-06-2022

My heartfelt prayers to The Lord God in Jesus Christ to Dan, Mrs Kelly and all The Kelly Family.

from: Bill Fix Jron: 09-06-2022

My condolences to all the Kelly's. I first met Jim at Donnybrook when it first opened, and have been a member ever since. Jim and I played many rounds together and I witnessed his first and only hole in one, and he witnessed one of mine. I loved listening to all his stories about his life. He was a true visionary and legend. I will miss him. RIP Jim.
from: Kevin Whiteon: 09-06-2022

Sending out my condolences to the family, a great neighbor of 20 years. Sending love to Dottie ?
from: Amber Lapointe on: 09-06-2022

One of my favorite memories.... He made us Shirley Temples at Brodie Mountain. He was such a nice man, always had a smile when I saw him. Sending thoughts, love and prayers to his family and friends.
from: Mandi Litchfield Morrison: 09-06-2022

I got to know Jim several years ago when we joined Donnybrook as annual members. Playing golf at Donnybrook was such a joy. Every time we came, we'd see Jim about, either in the clubhouse or out mowing lawn. He was always so very welcoming to Marilyn and me. I even played with him a couple of times, and he was always so supportive. I recall having a sandwich with him in the clubhouse and discussing his ideas for changes to the course. He was full of energy and passion for making Donnybrook the best in the area. Jim was a wonderful human being who always had time for everyone, and he made everyone so comfortable whether at Donnybrook or at Brodie Mountain, where we first exposed them to snow tubing. He will be missed!
from: Larry Shapiroon: 09-06-2022

Jim was a legend. My brothers and sisters and I have fond memories of him at Brodie Mountain. Best wishes to Dorothy and their children, and please accept condolences from the Nuciforo family.
from: ANDREA F NUCIFORO Jron: 09-06-2022

What a great friend. We admired and respected each other always. Jim was feisty competitor who forced constant improvement. I learned so much from him. He was a visionary, not only at Brodie, but in every endeavor. We got to spent precious time together the past 25 years and our friendship blossomed. I can truly say I was fortunate to have had the experience of knowing each other the past 53 years.
from: Brian Fairbankon: 09-06-2022

Jim Kelly was an incredible visionary in so many ventures. I respected the man for all he did at Brodie and beyond. Our friendship deepened the past 25 years and I cherished the time we spent together. Jim was a feisty competitor who was challenge for many years. We admired each other for our respective efforts to improve our operations. I feel grateful to have had the experience of knowing Jim for over 53 years. What a friendship.
from: Brian Fairbankon: 09-06-2022

My condolences to the Kelly family. I have many great memories from many of the business ventures Mr. Kelly established. From skiing, the restaurants, golfing to riding motocross on his property, Mr. Kelly made it fun. I remember discussing the challenging golf course construction permitting process with him which in my opinion is one of the best scenic courses in Berkshire County. Rest In Peace sir.
from: Mark Germanowskion: 09-06-2022

Jim was truly a gentleman in every sense. A successful entrepreneur, and loyal client of mine!! He leaves behind a wonderful family, and I send my condolences and prayers to all. Jim’s passing is very sad, but his successes live on.
from: Scott E Schiffon: 09-06-2022

My sincere condolences to the Kelly family for the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Jim and Dot were like family to me in the sense that myself and my family skied Brodie Mt from the early 70's, worked at the ski school and my former Mother in law worked in the accounting department of Brodie. My children, Ricky D'Elia and Kellie D'Elia-Laskin downhill raced for Brodie for years. Jim made the resort "family oriented" right down to Sunday Catholic Mass where we often celebrated Mass in the upper canteen and then ate at their restaurant before heading home.
Brodie Mt was the place to be and Jim and Dot always greeted everyone like family with their big broad smiles. I cannot say enough good things about Jim and his Irish way of making sure his staff and clientele feel comfortable around him. My heart weighs heavy for his family. When Brodie Mt. was closed we felt the pain losing a longtime establishment, our home away from home was felt . Now, I speak from the heart saying that losing Jim Kelly has sadly closed another chapter.
from: Patricia Kellyon: 09-06-2022

Ah, 'tis a pity, but what an enviably productive and adventurous life! My Da, John Callaghan, and my Uncle George spent many "Happy Hours" in Jim' Kelly's employ as publicans and customers. I myself have memories of summertime jobs, the auld fella instructing me in the finer points of grass cutting a steep ski slope by using a rope tied around the handle, raising and lowering it, hand-over-hand. A great guy!
from: Sean Eric Callaghanon: 09-06-2022

We would like to send our condolences to the Kelly family. So sorry for your loss. Out thoughts and prayers are with you all.
from: Michelle and John St Marieon: 09-06-2022

In 1964 I was born, and so was Brodie. Mr. Kelly, you provided us with a playground for 30+ years. We skied, slid on inner tubes, swam in your pool, camped, drank green beer, danced in the Blarney Room and jumped into snowmaking pond. Thanks for the memories! A kid couldn’t ask for much more. God bless you.
from: Alice Murrayon: 09-05-2022

To Danny and all of the Kelly clan,

Jeff and I are saddened to hear about the loss of your beloved husband and father. Jim left such a legacy and you are all so lucky to have had this wonderful man in your lives leaving behind all of the wonderful memories. May god bless you all. You are in our prayers.
from: Margie and Jeff Laurinon: 09-05-2022

A legend is gone. Condolences to Matt and Andy and and the whole Kelly Family. So many wonderful stories are flowing over my mind - working for Matt & Jim running Brodie's marketing and ad agency in the 90's, riding in a groomer at Brodie and Jeep scouting the golf course land with Jim and just drinking in his stories. One of my favorites that he RE-told to me a year ago at Donnybrook Golf Course involved John DeLorean stealing Jim's patent for the Hard Pak Pulverizer after discussions to license Jim's patent and built the "hydro tiller" with which most ski area groom their snow today.
And enjoying St. Patrick's Day festivities year after year with thousands of friends at the mountain Ski Magazine fondly called "the world's largest bar with ski area attached." Jim Kelly is always fun.
from: Bruce Whitneyon: 09-05-2022

To Mrs. Kelly, Matt, Andy, Danny, Douglas & Jamie. So sorry to hear of Mr Kelly’s passing. May the road rise to meet him, and the wind be at his back, we say Goodbye and God bless.
from: Brian Hayeson: 09-05-2022

My condolences to the family. May the fond and loving memories be a comfort and always be with you.
from: John A. Bernardoon: 09-05-2022

I just heard the heartbreaking news today. I'm so sad. Uncle Jimmy was a great uncle, brother, grand father, father, husband and friend to many. I've always been so proud of him. I am sending my condolences to all who he touched.
from: Klancy Brownon: 09-05-2022

My deepest condolences for the Kelly family.
from: Rick Foulkrodon: 09-05-2022

all i think of when i think of uncle jimmy is him making my mother laugh and smile her whole life. we all loved you so dang much! what a great uncle. god bless!
from: molly brownon: 09-05-2022

My thoughts and prayers are with the Kelly family. Jim was truly a legend and a good man. Thank you for Brodie Mountain and the many good memories!
from: Jay Chavarryon: 09-05-2022

I’m so sorry for your loss. I will hold the Kelly family in my thoughts and prayers. Jane Lefkowirz
from: on: 09-04-2022

So sorry to hear of JW’s passing. He was an incredible
man and he was my friend. We will miss him and we’ll miss his endless stories and all the quite times we shared on the deck at Donnybrook. A great man has passed from this earth but I’m sure he’s already negotiated a good spot in heaven
Bob & Anne Zuber
from: Anne & Bob Zuberon: 09-04-2022

Matt and family, sorry to read of your dad’s passing, but what a long and busy life he must have had! Thinking of you.
from: Schneski lake familyon: 09-04-2022