Taking Time with Mary Bess Hughes Kelly

For the month of October, we are highlighting the more “senior” members of our community at Bethany, many in their tenth decade. Some may not worship regularly with us but all continue to be rich examples of faithful lives. They were invited to share a favorite verse, a story from their lives where they experienced God, or a piece of encouragement.

Take a moment to read their words and be encouraged by the wisdom and grace in our church family.

“If you love God you won ‘t go off the path with evil things. You will have respect, and you will enjoy the Peace that comes with that.” Mary Bess Hughes Kelly

“Gratitude. Think of the beauty of the world, the miracle of it all.”

That was part of Mary Bess’s reply when asked to tell us lessons that she had learned in her 97 years. “Gratitude. Start every morning with prayer and gratitude. You can’t get too depressed or lonely with gratitude. As I pray each morning, I try to concentrate on all the blessings for which I am grateful in the past and in the present. It has been life-changing.” She also tries very hard to follow the Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22)

As a child, Mary Bess, her parents, brother, grandparents, and cousins all attended the Advent Christian Church in Seattle, then at 13th and Olive. She was baptized by immersion at age 12. It was “pretty fundamentalist,” she said. She attended the University of Washington where she drifted away from the church. We asked how her values changed. “I now believe that the Bibli­cal values are true and real- not the shallow and false values that have permeated so much of our present day culture and of my own youth. I try not to worry and to live one day at a time.” Her aspirations now are “to love people, not to judge or gossip. That’s extremely im­portant.”

Mary Bess’s career was in Deaf Children’s Education. After graduating from UW and receiving a teaching certificate at Seattle Pacific University, Mary Bess attended a special course in Deaf Education at the University of Southern California taught by Louise Treadwell Spencer, the founder of the John Tracy Clinic, the mother of a deaf son, and the wife of the actor, Spencer Tracy.

In 1943, she married Tom Kelly. In 1948, they began taking their children to children’s educa­tion classes at Bethany Presbyterian Church. Dick Denham was the pastor, “young, vital, a father of five, with a wife, Yvonne, whom everyone liked. Many people were drawn there.” Her husband, Tom, became a Deacon. He made excuses to avoid going to the Deacon’s Re­treat, but was stuck going in order to provide a ride to other Deacons. He arrived home with his eyes shining. They had drawn names for roommates, and he drew the name of Dick, the pastor. Their room was so cold, that they gave up on sleeping and talked all night. By morning, Tim had accepted Christ as his Savior.

His decision was real. It inspired Mary Bess and Tom to delve into the Bible, read books, and gradually become more and more serious in their commitment in faith. She and Tom served as Deacons and Elders. Her faith was strengthened both by her Home Group that has been meeting since the I 970’s and by Diane Murphy, her very good friend. They walked every morn­ing and prayed on the way home, until Diane moved to Iowa. Diane’s husband, Bruce Murphy, was former Pastor of Bethany, Provost of SPU, and President of Northwestern College in Iowa.

Mary Bess mentioned many favorite Bible verses: Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning;” the love verses of I Corinthians 13; and Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruits of the Spirit. She added a spontaneous proverb of her own:

“If you love God you won ‘t go off the path with evil things. You will have respect, and you will enjoy the Peace that comes with that.”

Coordinated by Mary Van Eaton, Photos by April Huizenga, Interviews by Kristy Champagne.