Biography - Owen L. Kelly
Borrowing from the theme of the three-act Broadway play and subsequent movie, "The Man Who Came to Dinner," it can be said that Owen L. Kelly was "The Man Who Came to Darrtown"... and Stayed... in the hearts and minds of the many friends that he acquired in the final 14 years of his life.
As noted in his obituary, Owen Kelly and his family arrived in Darrtown in 1948; Owen passed August 26, 1962.
Owen Kelly became Darrtown's constable, when he accepted the call of a "write-in" election in the late 1950's. An account of Mr. Kelly's election appears below.
Given his personality and military background, Owen was comfortable in the constable's role of authority and public responsibility.
Constable Owen Kelly contributed to the safety of countless thousands and served both Darrtown and Milford Township. Owen's personal sense of duty and enthusiasm expanded his role of constable, from the village, to the intersection of State Routes 177 and 73 - known to locals as "Davis' Corner."
The Honorable, Clem Imfeld, Butler County judge and Mr. Robert "Bob" White, long-time Oxford Press columnist, acknowledged the passing of Owen Kelly, in separate tributes that appear immediately below.
The following news article accompanied Owen Kelly's obituary in the August 30, 1962 edition of the Oxford Press.
"Imfeld Praises Constable Kelly
Constable Owen L. Kelly, who died of a heart attack Sunday, was praised by Judge Clem Imfeld, Jr., in extemporaneous remarks before he opened Butler County Court, Area One, Monday night.
'He was devoted to the cause of traffic safety and probably prevented accidents at the intersection of Routes 73 and 177, ' the judge said.
'He spent a lot of his holidays, Saturday evenings, and Sundays, watching that intersection, which is one of the most dangerous in this part of the state.'
The intersection has caused a numb of fatalities in the last 10 years. Route 177 is a direct ford between Hamilton and Richmond, Indiana and Route 73 is the road between Oxford and the east.
'There has been no serious collision there, since he has been constable,' Judge Imfeld further declared.
Milford Township, for which Kelly was constable, and Butler County 'will miss him,' said the court. 'And let me add that this court is going to miss him, too,' Judge Imfeld said."
Oxford Press columnist, Bob White, included the following remarks in his "Beneath the Tower" column in the August 30, 1962 edition of the Oxford Press:
"Beneath the Tower"Remembers Owen Kelly
"Oxford Resident were certainly shocked Sunday afternoon to learn of the sudden death of Constable Owen Kelly, of Darrtown. Devoted to duty in MIlford Township, Constable Kelly gave many hours toward patrolling the Route 177 and 73 intersection on busy weekends, and was quick to respond to calls throughout the township. Good-humored and witty, he could take a joke as well as dish one out and he was a loyal fan and booster of the Miami Redskins. Frequently, Oxford House coffee breakers would greet him with 'Has anybody here seen Kelly?' and now that he's gone, most of us can answer 'Yes' and admit that we truly feel better for having known Kelly the Constable."
Background to Mr. Kelly's election as Darrtown constable
The following account of how Owen Kelly was elected constable of Darrtown was told publicly for the first time during the September 26, 2009 Darrtown Gathering.
During the part of the September 26th program when audience members were invited to share personal memories of Darrtown, Ron Wiley recalled a connection between Darrtown and the infamous criminal, John Dillinger.
The thought of possible criminal activity in the Darrtown area prompted Ron and Fred Lindley to share their story about how Darrtown elected its very own peace officer during the mid-1950’s.
The election of Owen Kelly as the constable of Darrtown
It all started with Fred’s father, Al Lindley serving as a precinct judge in the Darrtown primary and general elections, which were conducted in the K of P hall. One fall, a few days before the November election, Al mentioned to Fred, that the ballot that was printed for the Darrtown precinct routinely included the position of town constable - but no one ever ran for the unpaid position. Fred shared this bit of information with Ron and the two teenagers began to discuss how funny it would be if Darrtown had its own constable. That’s all it took; the two friends began plotting a clandestine write-in campaign.
For reasons no longer remembered, the two boys decided that Owen Kelly would be the best candidate - and the best way to get Owen elected was to get his name before the public - before the election. So, after acquiring poster paper and paint, the two boys were soon on their hands and knees on the kitchen floor of the Lindley home - cranking out election signs that carried a variety of "Vote for Kelly" themes, including: "Clean-up City Hall - Vote for Kelly" and "Stop the Graft - Vote Kelly for Constable."
Next, in the darkness of the night before Election Day, Ron and Fred posted the signs on doors, trees, and telephone poles up and down Darrtown’s Main Street. Their efforts included a “Kelly for Constable” paper banner of some 10-12 feet in length, which was fastened to a rope that they stretched from a tree to a telephone pole, across Main Street, in front of Luther McVicker’s garage. Unfortunately, they quickly learned that they did not hang the banner high enough above street traffic. Within minutes of climbing down from the ladder that they used to secure the rope and the banner in place, a six-wheeler barreled down Main Street and the tall trailer that it was pulling ripped down the boys’ largest campaign sign.
However, that turned out to be the only setback to their campaign efforts. At the end of Election Day, Owen Kelly won in the proverbial landslide; Darrtown voters had elected a constable!
Several people in the audience added that Owen Kelly proved to be an outstanding volunteer constable. Although he had limited legal standing, soon after that eventful election, Owen purchased an official-looking cap and added a temporary red light to the roof of his car. Many people recognized that Owen’s presence along Main Street served as a deterrent to speeders. Also, Owen frequently contributed to the safety of travelers who crossed through the intersection of State Route 73 and 177 north of town, as he spent many hours parked at that crossroads in his pseudo-police car on those autumn Saturdays, when football fans were traveling to and from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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