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LGBT activist, volunteer Kea "Kookie" Kelly dies
2018-05-17

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Kea M. ( Kookie ) Kelly, age 74, passed away on May 15, 2018 at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, following a short illness. Kookie's sisters, Patti King and Veronica Kaiser, and her dear friend/adopted son Martin Ridge, were at her side.

Kookie was born in Chicago Feb. 2, 1944. She lived in Chicago and the near west suburbs all of her life.

She was one of the earliest members of the New Town Alano Club, believed to be the first Alano club in the United States for GLBT recovering people. Kookie and other sober alcoholics created a safe place in 1983 for GLBT alcoholics and addicts, initially on West Diversey Parkway. After a fire destroyed the original club, the NTAC moved to 3238 N. Clark St., then to a space further north at Clark and Montrose, and now is back at 909 W. Belmont. Throughout its many years, the NTAC has served the needs of Chicago's GLBT recovering community, as a space for meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step programs, as well as providing a sober space for social events and educational outreach. Through Kookie's decades of selfless work, the lives of many thousands of individuals were spared from active alcoholism and addiction.

Kookie was also an early volunteer at the Chicago House and Social Service Agency. At the height of the AIDS plague years, she and her spouse BeeJay ( Barbara ) Hollowell ( deceased ) cared for many people living with HIV/AIDS. They helped to establish the services of Chicago House, now celebrating its 33rd year of providing much-needed services.

Kookie and BeeJay were well loved and known in Chicago's GLBT community for their many acts of kindness and support of countless people.

Kookie was preceded in death by her spouse of 34 years, BeeJay ( Barbara ) Hollowell, who died in November of 2015.

Kookie is remembered by her sisters Patti King of Franklin Park, Illinois and Veronica Kaiser ( Bill Kaiser ) of Roatan, Honduras, her dear friend/adopted son Martin Ridge ( Peter Power ) and her grandsons Seamus and Liam; her many friends in her AA family; her friends of many years, going all the way back to her high school years, including Linda Barsaloux; her dogs Sophie and Mimi and her cat Sassy; and the many thousands of people whose lives were impacted by her kindness, strength, her fabulous humor, and her examples of decades of sobriety.

Longtime friend Merri Monks said: "Rest in power, Kookie. You and BeeJay are together again in the spirit world."


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