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PITTSFIELD, Mass. —
Returned home to his creator, James “Jim” W. Kelly, also known as “JW” left this earth on September 4, 2022. He was born “on the kitchen floor” (as he put it) , March 4, 1935 in Washington, MA to Mary (Dunn) and John J. Kelly. He grew up in rural Washington and Dalton with his five siblings. He attended St. Mary’s High School in Pittsfield, then went to Pittsfield High School. He and his brother Don worked for his father, John, at Kelly Lumber’s operations in Pittsfield. Kelly Lumber has become the largest hardwood operation in the East, exporting 85% of all its premium, dry-dried and finished hardwoods worldwide. The company also operated Berkshire Pallet, which manufactured wooden pallets to ship goods around the world.
At 17, JW, he left school and enlisted in the Seabees branch of the US Navy during the Korean War. In the Seabees, he worked on many projects on various islands in the Pacific, including Midway Island and the Philippines. When he returned from his time in the Navy, he returned to work for his father as a Timber Cruiser. It wasn’t long before he met his future wife and the love of his life, Dorothy “Dot” Godek, of Adams. Without her, he would never have been able to take the steps he took. Shortly after his marriage, JW brought Dot to Memphis, TN, where he attended the National Hardwood Lumber Association’s Inspector Training School to further his expertise in the lumber industry. They have just returned to Pittsfield in time to have their first child. JW then returned to work for his father as a lumber grader and lumber cruiser.
It was in 1964 that JW, lumber cruiser, purchased 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 Brodie Mountain Ski Resort. JW soon left the lumber business to focus on the ski business. Back in the days of rustic ski areas, with T-bars, tow ropes and lodges with stone floors, Brodie was a very unusual ski area at the time, offering chairlifts and chic carpeting in the lodge, and even a fancy restaurant and lounge. The lodge had the largest freestanding fieldstone fireplace in the United States, with 2 huge indoor fire pits. Everything was named after an Irish theme. The station became known as “Kelly’s Irish Alps” to the public. “The Blarney Room”, the 3rd and top floor of the ski chalet became an instant hit with locals, having a performance stage and huge dance floor, with the best live entertainment, and attracting several hundred patrons to that time. Locals were treated to live performances from; The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Jr., the Irish Clancy Brothers, the Irish Rovers and many more. Brodie even started his own house band, recruiting musicians directly from Ireland for many years. The Blarney Hall 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 a big blizzard at first, but it had practically melted. There were still very large snowdrifts along the town’s snow fences along Benedict Road near the present Berkshire Hills Country Club. JW came up with the idea of using his dad’s big lumber haul trucks, picking up the snowdrifts on Benedict Hill and hauling the snow up to New Ashford, where he spread it over the base trail “Harps’ Hump”. It turned out that Brodie was about the only place in the East that year that offered skiing for Christmas that year. A New York Times article sent skiers flocking to check out Brodie, who became an instant hit.
JW wasn’t going to let a lack of snow hold him back again! The following year, 1965, with his incredible foresight, he installed the world’s first top-down snowmaking system. In 1967, he installed the world’s first top-down lighting for night skiing operations. In 1969, JW invented and patented his “Hard Pak Pulverizer”, a machine that ground hard snow and ice into a fine powder. This concept is widely used today in almost all ski areas and is now known as the modern “snow cutter”.
In its heyday, Brodie Mountain Resort boasted the largest ski area in Massachusetts, Brodie RV Family Campground, Blarney Room Restaurant and Lounge, Kelly’s Irish Pub, Brodie Racquet Club, Dublin House Motel , Kerry House Motel, 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 resort power consumption with the first known ski resort to have power generated by a wind turbine at the top of the mountain. Brodie has also hosted some of the longest running professional ski races in the United States. All of JW’s sons, as well as his daughter, worked on these various operations. Early on, the Kennedy family discovered Brodie and made it their Berkshire destination for many family outings for skiing and camping.
Even off-season, Brodie quickly became the venue for all sorts of the biggest gatherings; weddings, political rallies, car shows, etc. With a capacity of over 300 people, the Blarney Room was busy catering and hosting many large events. JW has always been encouraged by the steady stream of people recounting their fond memories of Brodie. Brodie’s mission has always been to create a family atmosphere where 3 generations of the same family would have fun together.
In 1984, after the retirement of his brother, Donald, JW took over management of operations at Kelly Hardwood Lumber in Pittsfield, leaving Brodie to his son, Matt. JW built the large JW Kelly Steam and Power Plant at the Pittsfield site, generating 3.5 megawatts of electricity from wood waste from sawmill operations. In 1999, JW sold the Brodie operations to Brian Fairbank, operator of Jiminy Peak. Immediately bored with retirement, JW built and built and opened Donnybrook Country Club in Lanesborough in 2008, creating (according to Yankee Magazine) “New England’s Greatest Stone Walls”, and was dubbed “The Rock Star of Lanesborough”. JW always worked at Donnybrook 7 days a week, as long as he could.
JW leaves behind his sisters; Patricia O’Connell, Jean Disco [deceased]Gloria Slonski and Justine Brown, and her brother Donald Kelly [deceased]. His wife of 67 years, Dorothy, 5 children; Matthew (Mary), Andrew (Susan), Daniel, Jamie and Douglas (Shelley). He also leaves 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.”
The family would like to thank the staff at Springside Nursing Home and Dr. Barry Lobovitz for the excellent care JW received.
FUNERAL NOTICE: A Christian Burial Service will be held on FRIDAY, September 9, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Mark’s Church, concelebrated by the Reverend Christopher Fedoryshyn, pastor and the Reverend Peter A. Gregory. Burial with military honors will follow at Saint-Joseph Cemetery.
Calling hours will be on THURSDAY, September 8, 2022 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the DERY FUNERAL HOME, 54 Bradford St, Pittsfield, MA. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in his name to St. Mark’s Church or Soldier On in care of the funeral home.