Melyssa Jo Kelly

Melyssa Jo Kelly

Melyssa Jo Kelly

Cedar Rapids

Melyssa Jo Kelly, 70, most recently a resident of both Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and San Francisco, Calif., died on Aug. 10, 2022, at The Bird House-Hospice Home of Iowa City. Private observances were conducted at Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service in Iowa City.

Melyssa, also known through her life as Melissa Jo Kelly and Jo Kelly, was born Aug. 21, 1951, in Cortland, N.Y., to parents George and Lou Kelly. She grew up in Washington, D.C. and Iowa City, Iowa, graduating from Western High School in Washington, D.C. in 1969. She attended college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., earning an A.A. in women’s studies with a focus in theater, and University of California Santa Cruz earning a B.A. in women’s studies with a focus in film and video production in 1996.

Melyssa was a political and feminist activist from an early age. As a teenager, she volunteered for the Iowa City chapter of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and founded her high school’s first student run newspaper. She attended and helped organize anti-war and anti-racism marches in Washington, D.C. and other cities for decades. She resided in the Adams Mills neighborhood of Washington, D.C. for many years advocating for housing rights and against gentrification of that and other historically poor, communities of color.

Melyssa worked with her father as office manager of George Kelly and Associates for many years. Following that, she worked for women’s rights and cross-cultural diversity awareness commissions and departments in Washington, D.C., Santa Cruz, Calif., and San Francisco, Calif. She was a EEO and Diversity Training Officer for San Francisco International Airport, Administrator of the Violence Against Women Programs for the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women and Coordinator for the City of Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. She was a founding board member of Defensa de Mujeres in Santa Cruz. Melyssa also conducted cross-cultural and diversity training for many government agencies, non-profits and marginalized groups.

Melyssa enjoyed being an actress in local theater productions in Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of her leading roles include Gertrude Stein in “Gertrude Stein and a Companion,” Arkadina in “The Seagull,” Maxine in “Night of the Iguana,” and Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?” She was also involved in productions for the San Francisco Theater group Campo Santos.

After retiring, Melyssa returned to the Iowa City area to help care for her mother and brother in their later years.

Melyssa was preceded in death by her parents and brother, Burgess Kelly.

She is survived by her sister, Kate; brother, Sam Kelly; cousin, Kelly Nye; nephew, David; and nieces, Victoria, Diana and Eleanor Kelly.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to La Casa De Las Madres, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Poor People’s Campaign.

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