Former Appeal editor Peter Kelley dies at 86

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Former Nevada Appeal editor Peter T. Kelley, 86, died Tuesday at his home in Washoe Valley.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Former Nevada Appeal editor Peter T. Kelley, 86, died Tuesday at his home in Washoe Valley.

Peter T. Kelley once said, "The wind has blown mostly on my back." It was with this optimism that the half-Irish, half-Italian journalist and former Daily Appeal editor lived his life. Kelley, 86, died Tuesday at his Washoe Valley home.

In 1938, Kelley felt he was lucky that he could not ice skate. He met his wife, Caroline, as he was flailing around the University of Nevada, Reno's Manzanita Lake. The two had been married for 61 years at the time of his death.

"With her cheeks a pretty red in the cold night air, I quickly came to the conclusion she was the cutest girl I had ever seen," he said in his biography.

His daughter Nancy Valiquette of Gardnerville said their tale was a love story.

The pair had three children, more than half a dozen grandchildren, and since they turned 55, had traveled around the world - 50 countries, six continents - making their last trip four years ago when they took a trans-Atlantic cruise to hike in the Azores.

Kelley said he attributed his luck to being half Irish. He was born March 22, 1919, in Eureka, weighing all of 4 pounds.

Kelley began his news career with the Lassen Advocate in Susanville, Calif. He then served four years in the U.S. Army during World War II as editor of the Timberwolf for the 311th Regiment.

Kelley came to the Carson City Daily Appeal in December 1945. For seven years, he filled the pages of the Appeal with local news. Making daily rounds to the Governor's Office, City Hall and the Supreme Court, he filled page 1 with the news of the day and wrote a daily editorial. His desk sat across East Second Street from the Capitol, and he could look through his grime-covered window at the silver dome.

Kelley left the Appeal to work on the successful U.S. Senate campaign of George Malone. The move took the Kelley family to Washington, D.C., for 2 1/2 years.

The re-election campaign of Gov. Charles Russell brought them back. Russell was also successful in his bid, and appointed Kelley as the state's first director for the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. Following Russell's defeat in 1958, Kelley opened a one-man public relations firm, lobbying the Legislature where he mounted a successful campaign to reinstate biennial legislative sessions.

Kelley was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2000 for his days as a war correspondent, editor and wire service writer and for time spent as an advocate for a free press.

Kelley will be remembered during a service at 11 a.m. Oct. 22 at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community.

Among his survivors are his wife; son and daughter-in-law, Jerry and Penny of Carson City; daughters and sons-in-law Susan and Randy Stewart of The Dalles, Ore., and Nancy and John Valiquette of Gardnerville; six grandchildren; and countless extended-family members and friends.

In addition to his family, Kelley "loved everything about Nevada," Valiquette said. "He was a Nevadan through and through."

She said her dad wrote her a poem for her birthday on Monday. It was one of many pieces, including his biography "Luck of the (Half) Irish," that he wrote for his family.

"He used to write poetry for all of us," she said. "He loved puns and working with words."

Kelley also enjoyed playing the piano.

The small spinet that became the centerpiece of the Kelley home was one of the first pieces of furniture he and his wife purchased when they moved to Carson City. They paid $300 for the piano bought from the Melody Lane saloon, which was next door to the old Appeal office on Second Street.

n Kelli Du Fresne is local news editor for the Nevada Appeal. Contact her at or at 881-1261.


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