My cousin (who I called Uncle) Newby has gone to Heaven. He was as fine and memorable as he was kind. He was from “good stock” in Georgia and he packed a lot of life into his years of living. Today his family and the United States Navy are sending him home.
I grew up with an extremely colorful extended family. There was Aunt Al and Uncle Joe. Robert Newby always had a corvette. He took my cousin John and I for rides in it and made us promise never to tell our Moms how fast we went. He had a laugh you could hear for miles. Royce, Johnny and Will Pharr were all brothers and had smiles that you’d never forget. These are just a few of the personalities. And then there were the Kelts.
We didn’t know them as “the Kelts”, of course. They were Newby, Dottie, Patti and Marci. They always had atleast one dog with them. They were the epi-center of any family gathering. The stories and laughs couldn’t really start until “The Newb” showed up. He would usually announce his arrival, “It is I” he would say, as he walked in. His wife, Dottie, was always close beside or behind, smiling with her effervescent beauty all the way.
As The Newb and Dottie entertained, Patti and Marci were usually engaged in unpacking dogs, shotguns, perhaps a few beers or some other traveling requirements of the Kelt crowd. They knew the process. Shortly afterward, they would arrive with their inner and outer beauty taking over the room. As a kid, I would usually be dismissed shortly thereafter, as the crowd became more boisterous. This was usually how the Annual Newby Clan Opening Day Dove Shoot (or ANCODDS) would begin. Ah- family memories.
Legend has it that Newby played football, for a while, at the University of Georgia. As the story goes, he became acquainted with Wally Butts’ daughter and they dated for a while. Apparently he fell out of favor with the young lady and then Coach Butts, as well. He finished his college athletic career at Georgia on the wrestling team.
As a kid, I didn’t realize that Newby had flown in the Navy. I didn’t learn until later that he was one of the first RF-8 Crusader fighter pilots who found nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba. He never bragged about being awarded the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross for “single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.” He didn’t need to, ofcourse. He lived the heroism and achievement every day.
The Newby I knew was all about family, big smiles and love (and maybe a Bloody Mary, as needed). He once told his Mom, in response to her question about how he would summarize the sermon on that particular Sunday, by stating: “It was about Love, Mom.” That has become a general summary over a Sunday lunch for my family ever since. “That was a great sermon about love!”
Over the last few days Marci and I have shared stories and pictures about our Dads. We’ve promised to reunite our family and tighten the bond, once again. I shared how my Dad thought hers had hung the moon. In return Marci shared similar kind words, asked us to come visit and promised that, when we do, we’d be sent home with atleast one chicken, goat or dog. I don’t doubt that.
W. Newby Kelt’s life was one well lived. He served proudly, loved kindly and lived boldly. He leaves a family who will miss him dearly and will also carry their Mom and Dad’s legacy proudly. Godspeed, fair winds and Calm seas, Commander.
Newby and his wife Dottie are being buried together at the Jacksonville National Cemetery. You can read Newby’s apropos “official” obituary here: