Bristow banker Tracy Kelly dies at 85
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Saturday, September 15, 2012
9/15/12 at 4:53 AM
BRISTOW - To hear lifelong banker Tracy Kelly tell it, his profession sounded like more of a divine calling.
"He often referred to it as 'the ministry of banking,' " his nephew Albert "Kell" Kelly said.
And he "lived it every day. Whether it was lending money or a helping hand, visiting customers or employees in the hospital - however he could help, he was there."
Tracy Kelly, who was chairman of the board of SpiritBank, the nearly century-old institution that his father had helped build in Bristow, believed that he was in the business of making "dreams come true," his nephew added.
It was that belief that drove him as he took the bank to another level.
When Tracy took the helm as CEO in 1960, the bank had less than $5 million in assets, said Kell Kelly, its current CEO. But under his uncle's leadership it grew rapidly, and today it reports assets of nearly $1 billion.
Tracy Kelly, who helped lead what is now SpiritBank for more than 50 years, died Wednesday in Tulsa. He was 85. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Bristow Presbyterian Church, and a celebration of life will follow at 2 p.m. at the Freeland Center. Hutchins Maples Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Kelly attended Bristow Public Schools and graduated from the New Mexico Military Institute, a high school and junior college military boarding school in Roswell, N.M.
He received a bachelor's degree in finance and economics from the University of Oklahoma and did post-graduate work at Harvard University.
He served four years with an Army Reserves artillery unit in Korea, reaching the rank of first lieutenant.
SpiritBank, originally American National Bank, had begun in Bristow in 1916. The Kelly family became involved in the 1930s, when Tracy Kelly's father, Albert Kelly, a farmer and businessman, became chairman of the then-struggling bank's board.
Tracy Kelly became the board chairman in 1964, leading the bank as it grew to one of the state's biggest.
Sen. Tom Coburn, who called Kelly "a dear friend, mentor and trusted adviser," said he admired the banker's approach to business.
"He talked about the ministry of banking because the currency he cared about most was invisible - acts of love, service and sacrifice that made everyone he encountered feel a little richer," Coburn said. "He was a true servant leader."
Kelly pursued an active civic life and held various leadership posts with the Bristow Rotary Club, the Bristow Chamber of Commerce, the Tulsa Metro Chamber and the State Chamber. He was also a past chairman of the Oklahoma Bankers Association.
He also served on the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges and was a past board chairman for both Rogers State College and the University of the Ozarks, the latter awarding him an honorary doctorate.
He was a past director and member of the Defense Orientation Conference Association in Washington, D.C.
Gov. Mary Fallin said in a statement that Kelly "was such a joy to know and so easy to talk to. He left his mark on Oklahoma and left a wonderful legacy with the Kelly name."
Said Kell Kelly: "His goodness and belief always in a better tomorrow ... was courageous and inspiring. Tracy made us all better."
Tracy Kelly's three surviving brothers, Levan Kelly, Allison Kelly and Royce Kelly, are all SpiritBank board members.
Other survivors include his wife of 48 years, Polly Kelly; three daughters, Faith Clune, Hope Dobias and Joy Kelly; and three grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Lifelong banker had a spirit for helping others
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Tracy Kelly: Kelly, who in 1960 became CEO of SpiritBank, the institution that his father had helped build in Bristow, believed that he was in the business of making "dreams come true," Tracy Kelly's nephew Albert "Kell" Kelly said. "His goodness and belief always in a better tomorrow ... was courageous and inspiring. Tracy made us all better."