“She was one of the first who really went to a lot of trouble to write a history of the county,” said Barbara Seaborn, a fellow author of county history.
Kelley, 73, published two books about the county – Our Heritage: Personalities, 1754-1983, Columbia County, Georgia and Columbia County, Then and Now.
William Kelley said his mother was a Columbia County native who had a passion for its history. She was a longtime columnist for The Columbia County News-Times and a member of the Columbia County Historical Society.
“She was so interested in the history,” Seaborn said. “She worked and worked and worked. She was a tireless worker.”
Seaborn honored Kelley by organizing Janette Kelley Day last May at Lake Crossing Health Center, where Kelley lived in Appling. The women talked to a packed room about their books.
Kelley also served others. She and her husband, John, now deceased, often traveled doing mission work and would cook meals for those working on the scene of natural disasters such as 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.
“I think Mom and Daddy hit about all of them,” Kelley’s son said.
After graduating from Harlem High School, Kelley got a master’s degree in early childhood education and taught briefly. She later returned to the school system, working in the cafeterias.
After retiring from the Columbia County Board of Education, Kelley continued the mission work and cooked Wednesday night supper for the members of her church, Powell Baptist, for many years.
William Kelley said she was a good cook and strong-willed.
“She was a sweet woman,” he said. “But she was determined, you might say.”
Kelley is also survived by another son, Leonard Joe; a daughter, Nancy Cadle; four brothers, Tommy Sr., Freddie, Davey and Randy Story; a sister, Debbie Mensing; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
The funeral will be Saturday at Powell Baptist Church, with burial in Bellevue Memorial Gardens.