‘Nine for Nine’

May 6th, 2024

A tribute to his parents

Nine for Nine: Family Character Drawing for Dad’s 60th Birthday, 1988. Provided by Colin M. Kelly

Colin M. Kelly, a retired engineer, writer, and grateful son, pays tribute to his parents, Ann Marie and Paul V. Kelly, who managed to raise nine children in the 1950s and ’60s. His mother and father were, he says, “nine for nine.”

“Nine for Nine” is a phrase you don’t hear that often, maybe on a basketball court, never in a casino or at a baseball game. It’s a phase that immediately makes one think of perfection, something hard to achieve, a rare event. For me, I would like to make 9 par putts in a row or buy 9 stocks that double in price. But life has taught me that I have a better chance of winning the lottery!

For this story, the phrase “nine for nine” represents the accomplishment of Ann Marie and Paul V. Kelly who had nine children in the 1950s and 1960s all of whom graduated from North Pocono High School in Moscow, Pennsylvania, a perfect “nine for nine”.

The background

All nine of Paul and Ann Marie Kelly’s children were born in Scranton PA, and if you are wondering, yes, we were an Irish-Catholic family. Scranton is where our great-grandparents settled after immigrating from Europe. It was where Ann Marie Herbert, the oldest of three living on Colfax Ave and Paul V. Kelly the 3rd son of five living on Webster Ave became high school sweethearts at Scranton’s Central High School. After returning home from World War II, Paul would propose to Ann Marie, they were joined together with a classic Irish wedding at St. Johns the Evangelist on Pittston Ave. The young couple would “set up shop” on the south side of Scranton living above the Kelly’s Family Store & Butcher Shop located at the corner of Crown Ave. and Maple Street.

By 1966, with a brood of eight children, there clearly was a need for more room. Although I was younger than 10, I do recall the tight confines of the Crown & Maple apartment, with a double set of bunk beds in the bedrooms, a small kitchen with a side porch, and of course only one bathroom. Plus, we had no yard, none, no back yard, no front yard, no side yard! Imagine that scenario: 8 children ages 14 to 1, with 5 boys living in a 3-bedroom, one-bath apartment with no yard to play in!

So in 1966, our parents purchased an abandoned farmhouse in Springbrook Township about a dozen miles outside of Scranton on a dirt road that was 2 miles from any paved roads. It was a farmhouse built just after the Civil War. The foundation was built from field stones, it had a traditional L-shaped floor plan with a porch on two sides and clapboard siding. It was a very austere structure. The house was in the middle of an abandoned farm, with acres of open fields and with two small ponds “just a stone’s throw away.”

Although it would have been beyond me to recognize at the time, my parents and older siblings surely must have loved moving from the cramped apartment to a two-floor house with four bedrooms, one-and-half baths, and acres of fields to play in. We now had a huge family room with a grand fireplace, and views of the ponds. The family room was big enough for all eight to watch TV or play board games.

Of course, with all this extra space that just meant that there was room for one more child, the ninth joined the family in 1968.

High school

When I got to North Pocono High School in 1969, it held grades 7 through 12, it was still a rather new facility, built in 1964 with the consolidation of Moscow High School and other high schools in the area. To me, it was a gorgeous, modern-sleek facility, with clean lines and a unique rounded gymnasium roof – nothing like the Roman or Gothic-style high schools in Scranton.

The building reflected America at that time with its rapidly growing population, and modern designed buildings and malls sprouting up everywhere. It truly reflected the idea that the future was bright and full of opportunities, as Tom Petty would sing, “The sky was wide open.”

Of the roughly 1,000 students in this building, most arrived in waves of buses, some of which took an hour. It was an expansive school district; we were not the only family living on a dirt road.

Among the nine of us, several would be class presidents, captains of a sports team, and one a homecoming king. Always leading by example, our mom was president of the PTA, and our father was president of the Boosters Club. Seven of the nine went on to graduate from college, five would get advanced degrees.

In the end, all nine of us rode bus #28 to and from school, studied in the library, ate in the cafeteria, watched school productions in the auditorium, played for or cheered on the Trojans in various sports, and on our last day, we all walked across the same gymnasium floor to receive our High School diploma.

Thankfully, our parents saw all nine don a red cap and gown to receive our diploma, but unfortunately, our parents are no longer with us. With their passing, we set up a Paul V. and Anne Marie Scholarship Fund. The Fund has awarded more than $70,000 to area students.

Nine for Nine – not too shabby for a pair of high school sweethearts, a high accomplishment by any standard.

Colin M. Kelly is a recently retired professional engineer who, after spending the past 30 years traveling the world, has no desire to see another airport again in his life. He has written over 40 short stories, chronicling his life adventures. From Azerbaijan to Zanesville, these narratives capture the essence of a few of his global travels, filled with quirky and unique encounters. Other stories delve into his upbringing and his unapologetic pursuit of the American dream while climbing the corporate ladder. “Raised as the fourth of nine children on a rural dirt road in a humble farmhouse, ours was a household rich in character, though light on finances,” Kelly says. “In many ways, it was akin to a ‘Waltons’ setting, with a touch of Archie Bunker. My parents kept us on a straight path; my mother, surely an angel, held us together.”

FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION, TOP: Family Character Drawing for Dad’s 60th Birthday, 1988. Provided by Colin M. Kelly for his essay, “Nine for Nine.” 

More from Colin M. Kelly

‘Can You Keep a Secret?’

A Man of Great Character

Read more childhood memories and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.

Have your own childhood memories or other stories you’d like to share with our baby boomer audience? View our writers’ guidelines and e-mail our editor at Annie@BoomerMagazine.com with the subject line “‘From Our Readers’ inquiry.”

Another inspiring “Nine for IX” concept: The ESPN series on nine successful women in sports 

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