2014-02-14 / Obituaries

Town mourns loss of ‘tireless’ supporter

Jackie Kellett ran The Lobster Pot and served on numerous town boards and committees
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Kellett and her husband, Donald. 
(Courtesy photo) Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Kellett and her husband, Donald. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — Described by many as gruff and opinionated, Jackie Kellett did not shy away from expressing herself.

“The first thing I would say to describe her,” said Mark Kellett of his late mother, “she wasn’t politically correct ... she would tell you (how she felt). She was very strong-willed and set in her ways. But she was a tireless soul.”

Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Stevens Kellett, 72, widely known and widely loved, died on Saturday, Jan. 25 at her home of cancer.

Kellett is survived by six children and 14 grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, Donald, and daughter, Melissa Beth (Kellett) Mitchell. Mitchell died in 2012 at the age of 45. Donald and Kellett were married 45 years when he died in 2005 at the age of 69. Kellett was the daughter of Dorothy and Sonny Stevens of Kennebunk.

“If you needed to know something, you could call Jackie because Jackie probably already knew,” said Mark Kellett.

“For her, it was always about us kids, not about politics, not about money, it was ‘What’s in the best interest for the kids?’” said Mark Kellett. “She worked tirelessly six days a week and there was never not a meal on the table, even though she was always carting us around to our different activities.”

Kellett served on a number of committees and boards in her time, including a stint on the district’s school board from 1976 to 1979.

In the mid-1980s Kellett opened The Lobster Pot in Cape Porpoise, a staple restaurant that would last 20 years before closing in 2005.

Kennebunkport Town Clerk April Dufoe said Kellett certainly will be missed. “She was a wonderful person. She did a lot for the town and she had the best stories of anyone I knew. Oh, she had such great stories,” Dufoe said.

Kellett was president of the Kennebunkport Business Association for five years and credited with spearheading Kennebunkport’s Christmas Prelude in the early 1980s. Prelude has since grown to be one of the most popular holiday festivals in New England.

Said Sheila Matthews-Bull, Kennebunkport Selectman and a friend of Kellett’s since the mid 1980s, “She was one of the pioneers of Prelude. She really sort of held the reins close to her heart, because so often with a function like that it can get carried away and then it becomes something no longer held for the principle of it.”

“She always made sure it remained a community festival,” Matthews-Bull said. “That it was put on by the community, and that there continued to be volunteers, continued to be the business owners and employees giving back to the town.”

“It’s hard to not have it become so commercialized. People from out of state would comment year after year simply saying (Prelude) is like stepping back in time,” Matthews-Bull said. “And that’s what we want. We’re a small New England town, and this is how we celebrate the holidays. It has maintained its local flavor and a lot of it was because of her direction.

“She is going to be dearly missed. I know I’ll miss her when Prelude comes around. She was my fall back. She was the one I always called. It’s going to be different.”

“When my husband passed away suddenly she was one of the ones who brought to us platters of food because she knew we would be having people over and because that’s what the community does,” Matthews-Bull said of Kellett who was operating her restaurant at the time. “When she passed away last weekend Jennifer from Winks took it upon herself to organize the food aspect. She said all I needed to do was place a call and everyone I spoke with was more than happy to help. That just shows you that our community has maintained our small-town atmosphere. We’re out here to help each other.”

Mark Kellett harkened back to how the community in Kennebunkport used to be. “It used to be June through September, Memorial Day to Labor Day, the town blossomed, but it was the old money, it was the summer homes. Then, in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the dynamics all started to change; the sense of community between these 4,000 to 5,000 people that lived here year round, the old fishing village type of town where everybody knew everybody, changed. You might not talk to them on the street, but if you were in trouble they came out to help. And mom was part of that.”

In the early 1970s “I can remember, being maybe 9 or 10, the phone rang one day and she answered and talked for awhile. When she got off she was very upset and crying,” Mark said. “She loaded us all in the station wagon to drive us up to this dairy farm two hours away. The farmer had called to say that her cow wasn’t producing milk anymore. Candy, or whatever her name was, had had her 30-year-run. Mom took us all up there to say goodbye to her cow. Yeah, she was a character.”

Kellett was diagnosed with the late stages lung cancer just after Thanksgiving after her doctor found a large mass on her right lung.

“She was open (about her cancer) and the word spread. And of course she had done so much with her life in the public forum and just speaking up so many people knew her,” Matthews-Bull said.

“She wasn’t ready to go. She was talking about how she was going to beat this. She wasn’t ready to call it quits,” Mark Kellett said.

Kellett’s funeral was held at St. David’s Episcopal Church and the reception was held at the Rhumb Line Resort.

“The church was packed, the reception was packed. It was a testament to what she meant to us,” Matthews- Bull said.

Said Mark, “Some of her waitresses from The Lobster Pot came to the funeral, and these were girls she made cry all the time. But the affection was there. It was a very deep and raspy affection, but you always knew where you stood with her.”

“Even though she was so gruff she had an absolute heart of gold and would help anyone out if they needed it,” Matthews-Bull said. “That was just her personality. That’s just who she was.”

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