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One of Kelley's Olympic singlets was in good hands all along

By Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published December 21. 2012 4:00AM   Updated December 23. 2012 8:15PM

Thanks to one of John Kelley's former runners at Fitch High School, his exhibit in Grand Cedar Exhibition Hall at Foxwoods will contain one of two singlets he wore in the Olympic marathon.

Two weeks ago in writing about the unveiling of Kelley's memorabilia in an exhibit called "Victory: An Exhibition Celebrating Boston Sports," I told the story of how Jim Roy, who heads the foundation working to erect a statue of Kelley in downtown Mystic, lost one of Kelley's two Olympic singlets.

When Roy was running for Kelley at Fitch High School, Kelley gave him a singlet. Not any singlet but his Team USA singlet that he wore in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Roy said it was his most prized possession but one day it was stolen from his locker. When Roy broke the news to Kelley, the 1957 Boston Marathon winner who died last year wasn't upset, telling him instead that "Material objects mean nothing my man."

After reading the column, Steve Lamb of San Diego, who was on the Fitch cross country squad that Kelley coached to the 1974 state championship, contacted Roy to say he had the singlet Kelley wore in the 1956 Olympic marathon in Melbourne.

Lamb got the singlet when the patches for the team, were misplaced and Kelley brought out a box of his old running artifacts and let team members pick what they wanted.

Lamb "sheepishly" took the jersey from Melbourne, according to Roy, but after enjoying it for four decades, he sent it to Roy.

"He really wanted it to go to the family because that's the right place for it," Roy said.

Lamb's name will be on the caption below the singlet in the exhibit which was formally opened last week by four-time Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers. It will remain on display through the end of February.

Anyone wishing to donate to the statue fund can get information at www.johnkelley.org.

On the schedule: Some changes are in store for the annual New Year's Day Run and Swim which is held at noon on Jan. 1 in Mystic. With the Kelley family selling John and Jessie's home on Pequot Avenue where the run began each year, the start will move this year to the starting line of the Tarzan Brown Road Race on Pearl Street. Runners will then jog as a group the four miles to Esker Point Beach where they will enter the water.

It is hoped that in 2014 the Kelley statue will be up and the event can start there. That would be appropriate as Kelley always thought the event was a bit crazy as the group gathered in front of his home each year.

Joe Wojtas is the Day's running columnist

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