Larry Kelley Was the Voice of Amherst
The voice of Amherst has been silenced. Ironically, the car accident on Amherst Road that killed veteran blogger, Larry Kelley, 62, was the kind of thing he would have covered on his wildly popular blog, Only in the Republic of Amherst.
Larry died Friday afternoon, and many, many people have expressed their shock and sadness over the huge void that he left behind. No one, absolutely no one, knew more about Amherst or covered Amherst even close to the way Larry did.
I met Larry a long, long time ago when I worked for the Daily Hampshire Gazette as an ad salesman. Larry was famous for buying many, many ads for his fitness center, and he used to love to take advantage of what we called ‘remnant sales.” His ad rep, my friend David Perlmutter, would call him up with this week’s deal…a huge, ad for a super cheap price. Larry would always take it.
But times moved along, and Larry’s gym went out of business, and when he started his blog in 2007, it was much different than it was when he died in 2017. Back in the early days, Larry was a provocateur, fighting with the town about the Cherry Hill Golf Course, which he hated for all the money it lost, and about flying flags to honor 9/11 in downtown Amherst.
Larry was a bit of moral crusader, each week he’d list the “DUI Hall of Shame” with photos of the people charged over the weekend. He was a teatotaller, and once I called him out on why he did that. “It’s in the papers too,” he said, not feeling the least bit of guilt for what he was doing.
The Blarney Blowout, the big illegal party that stunned Amherst a few years back, was another target. Many Umass students wrote on a Reddit page about how they detested what he was reporting. He fought back in the comments, once naming a suicide victim, and was again attacked bitterly for it.
The comments on his blog were legendary. Endless strings of anonymous trolls who would tear into Larry, and he always gamely fought back. He was a fighter in his karate practice, and he took on all of those ‘anons’ by calling them out. One famous commenter was Dr Ed, who was the object of ridicule by the legions of commenters.
Despite the blog’s truculent beginning, and the many battles such as when he entered the bathrooms of the local schools to check the water temperature coming out of the faucets, he mellowed considerably as he grew older. The comments weren’t as vicious, and the focus was on what was happening in Amherst, both the government and the schools. Recently he led the successful charge to vote down the ‘mega school’ proposal in Town Meeting.
He bought drones that he used to show off parts of town from above during events and to show where buildings would be built. He out-reported the local papers time and time again, for no pay. Larry was a devoted blogger, sometimes posting two and three times a day.
No one worked harder, no one had the kind of devotion to sharing Amherst news than Larry did. The last time I saw Larry was last year when we had lunch with a group of men. He was totally focused on Amherst, little else was on his radar.
The voice that he spoke with was powerful and never stopped. He never took a day off, it seemed. Anyone who appreciates coverage of local news respected the blog he created and the record that he had for never missing anything in the town where he grew up.
Larry I will miss you. And so will the rest of Amherst.