Richard and Patricia McAvoy Kelly have been made a central theme to their son, Mark Kelly’s, announcement of his run for John McCain’s Senate seat in Arizona. In his campaign video, Kelly says that he and his brother, Scott, who is also an astronaut, both “learned a lot from my mom. She became a police officer in the 1970s. I remember my mother trying to figure out how she was gonna pass this physical fitness test. It was a hard test. It was designed for men but that did not deter my mother.” Kelly went on to say that his mother passed the test in four and a half seconds, the requirement was nine seconds.
Kelly added, “My parents taught my brother and I the value of hard work. I always knew I was going to serve this country in some way.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Both of Kelly’s Parents Were Cops; His Mother Was West Orange’s First Female Cop
Kelly and his brother were raised in West Orange, New Jersey, were both Richard and Patricia served in the West Orange Police Department. A 2012 NJ.com feature on Mark and Scott Kelly detailed that their mother, a native of the Bronx, was the first female cop in the West Orange department. Prior to becoming a cop, Patricia Kelly worked as a secretary.
Scott Kelly told the website, “I was probably 11 or 13 when she became a cop. She was the first woman to pass the men’s physical fitness test. It’s not like she was particularly athletic. She just worked really hard at it.” Before joining the department, Patricia had been a corrections officer in Essex County. In paying tribute to Patricia, West Orange Chief James Abbott told NJ.com, “She would be the first one through the door. She wasn’t afraid of anything. She’d be the first one in and she always had your back. Patty was one of the guys. She was very bright and a very good writer. She loved to write reports, so that was another benefit of being a partner with her.
2. Mark Kelly Says His Mother Got Him Through His Wife’s Shooting in 2011
Patricia Kelly tragically passed away in April 2012 in Texas after a battle with breast cancer. Patricia moved to Florida to join the Flagler Beach department where she would retire following an injury she received while making an arrest. The couple relocated from New Jersey to League City, Texas, to be closer to their grandchildren.
Mark Kelly told NJ.com in the wake of her passing that his mother had helped him greatly when his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head, along with 18 others by Jared Lee Loughner. Kelly said, “She was the person behind me who would always say, ‘Gabby’s going to get better.’ My mother, like my wife, they’re very positive people. They don’t let anything get them down and they always look at the positive aspect of just about anything.”
3. Mark Kelly’s Father Was a Navy Paratrooper
Richard Kelly was a Navy paratrooper when he married Patricia, who was 20 at the time. In October 2017, the Star-Ledger reported that Richard Kelly’s “alcoholism colored” his son’s childhood. During one instance, Mark Kelly said that in their youth when the family went on a trip to the Jersey shore, Richard took all of the family’s money and went to a bar while the family went on hungry. On another occasion, Kelly’s parents fought so intensely, Richard allegedly pulled a gun on his wife, leading to the then-teenage Kelly twins intervening.
In the book, “Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe From Gun Violence,” Mark wrote that his father carried the lower caliber weapon he was allowed to carry as a detective, a .25 Colt handgun. He adds that when his father was not on the job, Richard kept his gun in a kitchen cabinet.
4. Patricia Was a ‘Nervous-Wreck’ When Watching Her Sons Lift Off
Richard Kelly told NJ.com what Patricia was a “nervous-wreck” while watching her sons lift off for missions into space. Richard added, “She would never interfere with their dreams. She is the only woman in the world who raised twin astronauts. She raised two sons, not just brothers but twins, who flew up into the heavens.”
In 2003, Patricia told the New York Post about her fears saying, “It’s frightening, but that’s what they want to do. I love what they’re doing, but it is frightening.” Regarding watching a launch, Patricia said, “You feel the ground shake, and you see the fish jump out of the water and the birds explode out of the trees. It’s very emotional, a feeling like no other in the world.”
5. Patricia’s Sister Was an FBI Agent
In “Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe From Gun Violence,” Mark Kelly wrote that his mother “had law enforcement in her family.” Kelly said that his aunt, Patricia’s sister, was an FBI agent and her brother was also a cop. Another passage of the book details an incident where Patricia responded to a call about a man who had killed his parents and was holding his sister hostage, in order to avoid being shot at after she approached the home, she was forced to duck for cover, Patricia landed in “a pile of dog crap” and was forced to keep her head there until back-up arrived.