Gilbert Kelly, Longtime Grand Avenue Fixture, Shot Dead Last Night

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It’s with a heavy heart that we report the news that Gilbert Kelly, or just Kelly as most of us on the block between Gates and Putnam knew him, died from a gunshot to the chest last night shortly after 4 a.m.; he was killed on one of the mid-block stoops where he spent most nights for the past three decades. Kelly, who was profiled in this 2011 New York Times piece, was the self-appointed steward of the block. A 65-year-old homeless man who had struggled with drugs and had some brushes with the law, Kelly nonetheless had the implicit trust of everyone on the block. Many of us paid him a small monthly stipend to keep our stoops clean, make sure our recycling was sorted correctly and let us know if any suspicious characters had been lurking around our homes. Countless nights his crooning of Motown classics while he cleaned up the block was the last thing many of us heard before falling asleep. The block is on lock-down now and crawling with cops, but we haven’t heard any details. Was it one of the drug dealers from the corner or a tiff over something stupid that escalated out of control? Hopefully the police will figure it out. If you know anything, please give the 88th Precinct a call. RIP.

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41 Comment

  • Gilbert Kelly was a dear man and close friend of mine. He lived a hard life on the street but did so with an always generous attitude and a defiance to living in the way anyone thought he should. He will be very missed. He did so much for me.

    • Thank u he did a lot for people and I appreciate your kind words…me and my sister and brothers appreciate your comment ….He live there cuz he loved The People….

  • We’re all crushed by this senseless murder. Kelly was a kind man who brought our community together. I did not get the impression that he was mixed up in the drug dealings on the block but perhaps this will spur the cops to do something about it. Or perhaps not…

    The Times article linked above has three commenters all named Morris, who refer to Kelly as their father. I called the precinct to let them know. Please everyone put the pressure on them to solve this. I get the feeling the murder of a homeless guy is not high on their priority list.

  • Also, if there is a memorial, we’d love to attend. Please anyone who has any information post it here.

  • Hello I’m Iesha I’m his oldest Daugther I have 6 Brothers and 1 Sister Queen we appreciate all the love and Support

  • Thanks everyone for there pray my dad is in a good place right now in I will remember how great he was we will give everyone information about the funeral

  • Being from Maryland, I only knew Gilbert as “Motown” (a nickname my best friend and I had given him due to the Motown classics he would sing on the block). During my weekend trips to Brooklyn I would often see him while walking to the corner store or being out on the weekends. He reminded me so much of my uncle back home in Baltimore i.e., living a hard life, keeping the block clean, looking out for the neighbors and singing all the time to name a few. I will miss Motown during my future visits to Brooklyn. I last saw him Super Bowl weekend at which time we were walking home and he walked us to the front door still singing of course and joking. One of my fondest memories of Motown was one night he helped us in the house when we lost our keys. Believe me you had to be there—one of the funniest moments of all time!!! My best friend just told me two weeks ago that Motown asked “where’s Boston at?” She reminded him with a smile and laugh she’s from Baltimore not Boston!! She said he got a kick out of that!! Gotta love him. My sincerest condolences to his family, friends and most importantly all the neighbors who supported and liked him as well. RIP Gilbert Kelly aka MOTOWN. One.

  • I lived on the corner of Grand and Putnam for a few years and Kelly was a really good neighbor. He was kind, funny, insightful, musical, and generous. I left the neighborhood in 2012, but not before making some unforgettable friendships. Kelly was a good man and I’m heartbroken about the news. To Iesha and the rest of the family, I’m deeply sorry for your loss. My dad died in June and it’s a hard, hard thing. Surround yourselves with love. I’ll check back for information about the service. Wishing you all comfort and peace. — Jules

  • Hello I’m a life long member of this community. I’ve known Kelly for 30 years when he worked as a postman. He delivered mail to my building. To the family my deepest condeloses. Aiesha i left my name and phone number with Detective Parker at the 88th precint. Please contact me. I will assisit you in any way that i can. I have information to share with you.

  • Thank you every one we really appreciate what he did for everyone he’s a great man in a great dad we will let everyone now where and when the arrangement will be

  • Iesha and Queen, please accept my families condolences — my children counted your dad as a friend. We will miss his singing and stories very much. We would really appreciate information on a memorial or any service being done for him please…..and I hope I’m not offending anyone by offering to contribute and help with the cost. I am sure Grand avenue would like to help in any way posible. We are happy to take up donations for the family and pass them on to you, having lost a brother I knw how expensive these things are. He made this block special and it won’t be the same without him.

  • Thank u from our Family we appreciate the love and Support we will let grand ave now when in where the arrangement be my family will be on grand Friday at 7 so if anyone will like to speak to use will be there

  • My heart is sad ,and i have cried because of this empty space created by the murder of Mr Kelly His songs ,smile hellos are gone .. i feel a loss Kelly was a part of my daily routines these past 25 years, from his Hello’s ,Motown Songs and our little conversations or some photographs along the way on some days ..I actually photographed him the day before this tragic event… I am glad that there is such care for wanting leads on finding who did this.. His life Mattered to his family and members of the community ..but Please as you speculate the writer of this blog should know and Remember that this is a community and YES .. even the so called local drug dealers have been a part of it .THEY,..Everyone here …..and ALL who managed to live on these blocks through all the dramas and changes these past 30 years ..TRUST that THEY / We are hurting on this loss also.. It’s very unlikely that anyone from this community was involved ..and this comment is unfairly divisive…from new neighbors who may mean well..And who also feel this loss .. BUT be clear the .people who were here and have been here, had and have COMMUNITY and this was a long standing community before you got here..these same individuals helped to keep a peace ..it’s not perfect , because nothing is . This reckless wickedness did not occur from anyone in this community.
    and all who knew Kelly and had a love ,respect or tolerance if not friendship.. Things will never be the same ..it feels as if an Era is truly closed with the loss of Mr. Kelly who was truly a liaion for old and new neighbors..R.I>P. Mr Kelly ..I will miss you always.

    • Hi I’m his daughter queen I’m so happy that he got to share his stories his smile jokes and etc with you thanks for the love you give him grand ave was his family and he be truly miss if you have a chance can you email some picture that you have if him I really appreciate it thanks

    • Thank for your Kind words my father was a good man he was good for telling jokes and he help anyone he had a humble heart Thank u Iesha

  • I am a long time resident of this community, and Mr. Kelly was my friend. And when I say long time I mean 44 years. This article upset me just based on the callous remarks made in reference to the possibility of him being shot by a local drug dealer. I want to first say Mr. Kelly had no enemies period from this neighborhood, you now all call home. Unlike most of you five or ten year residents we grew up here and we all had an incredible amount of respect for him, Mr. Kelly was not homeless because he didn’t have means (socio-economically) he chose the life he lived, much like you or I chose to smoke cigarettes or not. So the statement made about the corner boys seriously injured me, they respected and took care of him in more ways then you will know. Grand Ave. Was a war zone once upon a time ago, many of you would have never ventured out your front door with out police presence, we lived through the turmoil and won the battle, so those faces you see out there on those corners, outside randomly hanging around are survivors of the most crucial times anyone could ever live through. I will bet most of you didn’t know Mr. Kelly was a Vietnam Vet, or that for many years after he was a postal delivery man. And he loved this community and those kids on that corner are and were very much like his children. He spared no expense to just be a part of the fabric of the NEW THREAD here, – kind, generous, hard working, intelligent and bull headed. And certainly not killed by someone from here.. But by an outsider.. One who didn’t know they took from us a decent person, One who didn’t understand that now we are left empty. Mr. Kelly was a part of a history that many of you could never digest….So with all due respect please be mindful that those corner kids smile and pay you homage and they don’t have to, they are courteous and respectful and that is amazing, they aren’t typical goons nor are they killers. Much like you reserve the right to be here they are the very essence of what here is.

    • Thank u so much for this Comment Me and my Family Really Appreciate This my Dad was Grand St ….The Mayor a honest Humble Man a Dad a Freind Please not Forget that …Remember the Songs he sing at Night for most of y’all went to Bed or his Hellos as y’all walk up the Block he was the last person y’all seen every night ….

  • I would like to thanks all the grands street people that taking time to to share there story to use on this blog I really appreciate it rip pops your miss but I now in my heart you will never be forgot grand street thanks again

  • In honor of our Beloved Kelly and his family,
    We would like to raise funds for a permanent memorial for him on the Grand Avenue block between Gates and Putnam. It is the very least we can do for this gracious, dignified, generous, talented, decent and beautiful man that he was. The shock and sorrow my husband, five year old daughter and I feel over this senseless tragedy is profound. How anyone could hurt that man is incomprehensible to us. He was a gentle and dignified man, the likes of which we will not see anytime soon. And how we will miss hearing his voice as we drift off to sleep…My daughter and I just went to the temporary memorial on his block and lit a few candles, and cleaned up the garbage in the surrounding area. We just wish we could do more to honor him. We hope to learn about a memorial, and I will begin to organize our block(s) to put together something more permanent in his name. He was a wonderful friend and neighbor and he is deeply missed. As our daughter said, “He was my friend. And he will live in my heart forever.”

    • Thanks you so much we will be doing a lighting on the block tomorrow at 7 pm and we will let every one now about the funeral arrangement tomorrow I would like to meet all his friends that care for my pops ❤️❤️

  • We Thank u so much for all your comments and nice kind words me and my sister and brothers want to say Thank u for the love and support and arrangements will come soon…Iesha and Queen

  • WE REALLY LIKE TO THINK EVERYONE OF GRAND AVE PEOPLE FOR SHOWING UP FOR THE LIGHTING JN SAY THERE STORIES ABOUT HIM HE WILL BE MISS THANKS AGAIN WE WILL LET EVERYONE NOW ABOUT THE FUNERAL

  • GILBERT KELLEY FUNERAL WILL NE HELD ON
    3/29/14
    AT PIRO FUNERAL HOME ON
    251 dekalb ave
    VIEWING 10am to 2pm
    FUNERAL 2pm to 3pm
    THE REPASS WILL BE AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER ON FULTON
    4pm to 7pm
    WE WILL BE HOLDING ANOTHER CANDLE LIGHTING ON THE BLOCK AFTER THE FUNERAL LIKE 4 thanks

  • Dear Kelly Family,

    My wife and I send our condolences from Miami.

    We lived for 10 years in the building next door to what is now the pet grooming shop, on Grand Ave.

    For many years I heard Kelly sing late at night and keep the street organized and clean.
    You could say it became a signal that everything was all right on the block when Kelly
    was belting out one of his Motown songs.

    I know we both felt better seeing him on the block when we walked home late at night.

    In the Fall he would relentlessly sweep and gather the fallen leaves.
    In Winter he shoveled the sidewalks and shared hellos.

    When my wife and I moved last year, Kelly helped us move furniture and throw away unwanted items.

    It goes without saying that an important part of what made Clinton Hill, CLINTON HILL, has been lost.

    Sincerely,

    Jonathan Porcelli

  • Kelly was always willing to help the elderly citizens on the block. He would sweep. take out the trash cans, pull the weeds, anything he could do to help. When I come to visit my family from out of town, I would always look for him when the cab pulled up. Always kind, thoughtful, and willing to help. He always wanted to know how long I would be in town, and made it his business to stop by to say hi, or to see if my elderly family members needed anything. Always had a kind word for everybody. When I got the call about his tragic passing, I was stunned to say the least. Deepest sympathy going out to both immediate family members, and the entire Grand Ave Block.

  • Thank you he will truly be miss we love you dad

  • GILBERT KELLEY FUNERAL WILL NE HELD ON
    3/29/14
    AT PIRO FUNERAL HOME ON
    251 dekalb ave
    VIEWING 10am to 2pm
    FUNERAL 2pm to 3pm
    WE WILL BE HOLDING ANOTHER CANDLE LIGHTING ON THE BLOCK AFTER THE FUNERAL LIKE 4 thanks

  • To the Kelly Family,
    I am so saddened by the loss of Kelly. I live in Manhattan and have been visiting my friend on Grand Ave.
    for years… Your father was such a special person. I didn’t even live in the neighborhood and he remembered
    me. We always chatted or exchanged things… He called me Pouncake, because one time, I made him a poundcake. I am so sorry that you have lost your father. He had amazing character, integrity and a real gift of helping people. He also had a big heart and a beautiful voice.
    My heart and thoughts are with your Family during this terrible time.

  • I WILL LIKE TO THANK EVERYONE THAT CAME TO MY DAD FUNERAL WE REALLY APPRECIATE IT HE WILL BE MISS I GAIN A NEW FAMILY GRAND STREET FAMILY I WILL BE VISIT YOU ALL THANKS AGAIN

  • Thank u for all the kind words my dad was Truely Love and we appreciate everyone coming to his services please keep his memories alive and he will be miss but remember what he brought to everyone life Thank u for your love and Support…The Morris Family&Kelley Family