John D. Kelly, 80, who worked during the 1960s and 1970s in the District's Brookland community to revitalize the business district and to block plans for an expressway through the neighborhood, died of lung cancer May 1 at Providence Hospital in Washington.
Mr. Kelly also was a civilian employee in intelligence for the Army Security Agency for 26 years. He retired in 1974.
From 1976 to 1979, he was projects director of the Upper Northeast Coordinating Council, an umbrella organization of about 40 Northeast Washington groups. He served as a mediator between community businesses and residents.
As projects director, he brought others together to revitalize the area's declining business district, including the renovation of the eyesore Newton Theater into a classic art deco building that became a symbol of community pride. The theater, at 12th and Newton streets, now houses a CVS pharmacy.
Earlier, when local and federal agencies made plans to run an expressway through Brookland, Mr. Kelly joined Sam Abbott, Thomas and Angela Rooney and others in forming the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, said his son Peter T. Kelly of Aspen, Colo.
The committee "held protests at the Three Sisters Bridge site, at various blocks around our neighborhood which the government had seized by eminent domain, and at congressional hearings and city council meetings," his son said. It was "ultimately successful in having the planned I-95 expansion canceled and the Metro rail system built."
John Kelly was quoted in a 1978 Washington Post article about residents of Brookland who fought the plans for the North Central Freeway and advocated the Brookland-Catholic University Metro station.
"Our answer has been yes to urban transit, no to highway," Mr. Kelly said. "The subway is a welcome addition to the community. We're not interested in high-density development here. We're concerned about preserving and refining the quality of life that exists."
In the 1960s, Mr. Kelly also was active in the strike against the D.C. Transit System, the precursor company to Metro that was privately owned by businessman O. Roy Chalk.
"I can remember the 'Erase Chalk' posters around the house and my dad driving around D.C. in our station wagon giving free rides to people who were participating in the strike," his son said.
John Kelly was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, and grew up in Batavia, N.Y. He served in the Army during the Korean War. He received a bachelor's degree from Canisius College in New York and did graduate work in literature at Catholic University.
He moved to Washington in 1948 and settled in Brookland.
After a close friend died of cancer in the late 1970s, Mr. Kelly became interested in the hospice care concept that was growing in the Washington area. He began a program with hospice-type volunteers at Providence Hospital in Northeast Washington.
In 1980, he began studying for the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. He was ordained a deacon in 1983 and served at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Brookland.
Combining hospice care with his ministry, he became the pastoral care coordinator for the Palliative Care Service at Providence Hospital. He also was the community representative on the Providence board of directors.
His first wife, Sally Relihan Kelly, died in 1962.
In addition to Peter T. Kelly, a son from his first marriage, survivors include his wife of 40 years, Sheila Kelly of Washington; four other children from his first marriage, Sean G. Kelly of Dayton, Ohio, Sarah A. Kelly of Philadelphia, Mark J. Kelly of Boston and Mara Kelly Marsh of Oceanside, Calif.; three children from his second marriage, Siobhan M. Kelly of Boston, Scott A. Kelly of Philadelphia and David S. Kelly of Washington; and seven grandchildren.