Obituary: Bill Kiely


Bill Kiely

Port Townsend, Wash.

Jan. 9, 1948 – Dec. 19, 2016

Bill Kiely, conga drummer, radio host, school teacher, UpWest Arts guy, Irish joke teller, lumber broker, dies at 68.

William Harding Kiely passed away peacefully at home on the morning of December 19, 2016 of heart failure.

Bill was born January 9, 1948 to William F. Kiely and Margaret McMenamin at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. where his father was an MD. The family then moved to Santa Barbara, Calif. and when Bill was eleven, he left home for boarding school.

Bill graduated from Claremont Men’s College in 1969 with a degree in English Literature, then took a teaching job in the Imperial Valley where he taught 6th grade among the agricultural fields of Coachella. He drove a laundry truck, then a lumber truck, before he started a hardwood lumber business in San Louis Obispo. By 1987 Pacific Access had a dozen employees and a busy yard selling hardwoods up and down the coast. 

He was a member in the San Luis Obispo Blues Society, beginning a series of live blues shows. A passionate Public Radio guy, Bill hosted a blues show on KCBX FM every Saturday night for 15 years.

Bill met Sally in Harmony (pop. 18), Calif. in 1987 while he was drumming at an art gallery opening, and she was visiting her artist friend after leaving her job in Seattle.

The couple married in Port Townsend where Sally’s folks lived, then moved to England where Bill earned his Master’s Degree in English/American Literature at the University of York. Ever old fashioned, he prided himself on writing his thesis (on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”) on the last remaining typewriter in the computer room. They lived in Dublin before moving to Polk Street in Port Townsend in 1990.

Bill ran the mentorship program, and then taught English in PTHS in the early 90s. His first live music show was bringing the Laura Love Band to the high school, which the students produced in the high school auditorium. He left teaching to start UpWest Arts, producing more than 220 shows, with Sally on graphics, across the country and Hawaii by the time he retired in 2014.

Bill had “the gift” of the Irish. He consumed Irish literature of all kinds. He also loved to write, especially about people. For many years he wrote a weekly column for the Peninsula Daily News and an occasional article for the Leader. He volunteered at KPTZ Radio, played conga drums and percussion with a variety of bands and was always swapping books and short stories with his friends.

His wife, Sally Chapin, daughter Christine Kiely, three siblings and their families survive him. A celebration of life is planned for Wednesday, December 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Palindrome. Bring a dish to share. In lieu of flowers, donations in Bill’s name for KPTZ FM 91.9 radio. There will be a KPTZ box at the Palindrome. Please join us.

And finally,

Seamus opens the newspaper and is shocked to see his OWN obituary. In a panic, he phones his friend and asks: "Did you see the paper?! They say I died!" The friend replies: "Yes, I saw it! So, where ya calling from?"


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