Daniel “Bud” Kelly.  Photo courtesy of Don Usner.

1921 – 2020


Bud (Daniel T.) Kelly, Jr. was born in 1921 in Santa Fe.  His family owned and operated Gross, Kelly and Co., one of the largest railroad general mercantile companies in the southwest.  Bud was one of six children.  When he was an infant, his parents, Daniel T. Kelly and Margaret Gross, owned a home that used to be where Century Bank is currently located, across the street from the Federal Court House.  In 1925, the family moved to a home on Palace Avenue.  Bud later purchased a home next door, where he lived until 2015, when he downsized and moved to El Castillo.

When he was a youngster, he did a little cowboying at the Martin Family Ranch.  On horse rides from Santa Fe to Las Vegas, a stopover at the Martin’s Ranch on Cow Creek was essential; the horses were tired, but also the Martin’s had some good looking daughters, he said.  Completing college, Bud served in the US Army during WW II.  He returned to Santa Fe with an MBA from Harvard to work for Gross, Kelly and Co. But then he was recalled to the Army in 1951 and saw action in Korea.

After his return, with railroad mercantile businesses in decline, he presided over the closing of Gross, Kelly and Co. in 1954, and started the next phase of his life.  Bud and his wife, Jeanne, who died in 1993, raised four children, two daughters and twin boys.  He owned the Kelly Insurance Agency, was a founding board member of the Santa Fe Opera and St. John’s College when it opened its Santa Fe campus, and has served on the boards of many other important Santa Fe institutions.

What a lot of people don’t know about Bud is his love of the land, which can be captured in the story of his family property on Cow Creek, east of Pecos, owned by the family since 1898.  It was placed in a conservation easement at the Santa Fe Conservation Trust in 1998 and is surrounded on all four sides by national forest.  The Viveash Fire burned the entire property and the forest surrounding it in 2000, leaving only 40 old growth trees.  Even the soil turned to ash.  Everything looked dead and moonlike with the eerie black bones of burnt trees sticking up into the air.

Circa 2000, shortly after the Viveash fire burned 22,000 acres, including Bud’s property.

With his knowledge of land management, Bud reseeded the property and harvested the dead wood.  “Bud’s property [now] has the most diverse vegetation of any of the properties we protect,” Melissa Houser, SFCT’s Land Program Manager, said.  “About a decade after the fire, there were groves of aspen, deer, birds, and a wide variety of wildflowers at different times of year,” Melissa said.  “It is rare to see wildlife on our properties—usually you just see tracks–but at Bud’s, I am guaranteed to see wildlife when I visit,” she added.

Circa 2012, a dozen years after the Viveash fire, with new growth of aspens, meadows and wildlife.

“In fact, you can see the boundaries for Bud’s property because the Forest Service did not undertake reseeding and timber management similar to Bud’s efforts.  He’s got grass reseeding and stabilizing the soil, raspberries, wild roses and rosehips, and always butterflies!  It’s enchantingly beautiful,” she said. That’s very high praise from a staff member who annually visits more than 36,000 acres of land under protection at SFCT to ensure the conservation values are being upheld.

What a legacy for Bud and his family to give to all of us: a revived ecosystem surrounded by the national forest; a place preserved forever that gives nature refuge, full expression and truly preserves the spirit of place for the benefit of everyone.


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