By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, November 24, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- After throwing herself a pre-funeral party to raise money for her cremation, Jane Kelley said she envisioned herself kicking up her feet and living the remainder of her life in Mexico.
"I had all of my belongings packed in boxes, then the sale of my house fell through," Kelley joked. "I took it as a sign that maybe I should stay here, which is a good thing because I don't think I could have handled all those hurricanes and drug wars. And I would have had to ask President Fox for asylum."
The wisecracking 81-year-old justice of the peace is back, and better than ever, once again representing Hampton as one of its five state representatives. She, along with Nancy Stiles, Ben Moore, Tom McGuirk and Susan Kepner, won a seat in November's election.
Kelley was previously a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives in 1975 to 1976 and 1995 to 2004.
"It was temporary insanity," said Kelley, on why she decided to return to politics. "But seriously, I think I can still do a lot of good. I want to help the working people of the state."
Kelley said she was raised by her wealthy grandparents after her parents abandoned her. And she said she realized she wanted to enter politics and become a Democrat the day Franklin Roosevelt drove up in a limousine to attend dinner with one of her grandfather's neighbors.
"I think Roosevelt was governor of New York at the time and he came to visit my grandfather's neighbor who was an author," Kelley said. "My grandfather was a staunch Republican and wanted no part in it. I, on the other hand, looked out the window and waited. And when he drove up in a huge black limousine, I thought to myself I want to be a Democrat.'"
As a state representative, Kelley said she was most proud of her work for labor unions and getting the state to recognize the holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., which it adopted in 1999.
An honoree member of the Teamsters and Professional Firefighters Association, Kelley said she acquired her interest in organized labor from her other grandfather, Francis Patrick Sullivan, a working-class steamfitter, who "appreciated everything the union ever did for him."
"The main reason why I ran for the House in 1975 was to get public employees collective bargaining rights," Kelley said. "I was so happy when RSA 275 passed by 42 votes and that I was able to play a role in it. I thought of it as a tribute to my grandpa."
Kelley is also known for unconventional humor, where those who don't know her are not sure if she's kidding or telling the truth. Just ask the Portsmouth Herald, who reported the reason why she held a cremation party was because she was dying of nose cancer.
"That was funny," Kelley said. "The story was even picked up by USA Today. It was a great sob story, but it wasn't true."
Kelley held her cremation party, which included crying towels as party favors, after she lost the money that was put aside for her funeral.
In 2004, when legislators' fund-raising activities were getting close scrutiny, Kelley revealed in disclosure documents that she received a $100 check from Pope John Paul and one pound sterling from Queen Elizabeth.
"That was a joke, too," Kelley said.
But Kelley's life hasn't always been comic and that is where she says her sense of humor comes from. Her son died of AIDS, a granddaughter was murdered and she is a breast cancer survivor.
"When I was a baby in my cradle, I was visited by seven fairies," explained Kelley, on where she got her sense of humor. "Six of the fairies gave me doubt, fear, self loathing, hatred, remorsefulness, and the seventh gave me humor as a survival tool. Life dishes out a lot of crap. And humor is the great survival tool and so far it has worked."
Kelley said she is looking forward to returning to Concord as one of the town's state representatives. Some of the items on her agenda this time around include rasing the minimum wage to $7.25 and to assure police and fire unions receive binding arbitration when it comes to its collective bargaining agreements.
Kelley would also like the state to adopt an income tax.
"The New Hampshire advantage is nothing but a crock," Kelley said. "People don't understand that if we have an income tax, their property taxes will go way down. The New Hampshire advantage only helps the well-to-do."