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Community Mourns Loss of EMS Leader Rich Kelley

Friends and colleagues on Friday remembered Rich Kelley as a leader of the Centre County emergency services community, a mentor and a devoted public servant.

Kelley, a paramedic and EMS manager for Mount Nittany Health, died shortly after 8:15 p.m. Thursday at the Mount Nittany Medical Center Emergency Department, according to the hospital. No cause of death was provided.

“This is a tragic loss, and one that is absolutely heartbreaking,” Charlene Diehl, Mount Nittany Health director of diagnostic and ancillary services, said in a statement. “Rich dedicated his life to keeping people safe, and he worked tirelessly to prepare people to effectively respond to emergencies. Beyond that, he was a wonderful colleague, who was always willing to help others. His kindness and compassion came through in everything he did. There are no words to describe how much we will miss him and the warm smile he brought to work each day.”

Kelley, 56, of Howard, joined Mount Nittany as a paramedic in 1991 “and went on to contribute significantly to the development and growth of the department and EMS in the region, providing life-saving care to countless individuals and families,” according to the health system. Prior to directing the ambulance service, he was EMS clinical supervisor at the medical center.

“I’ve known Rich for over 30 years, and he dedicated his life to the care of others. He was one of the most selfless individuals I have ever known,” Dr. Kasandra Botti, director of emergency services, said in a statement. “He was also a natural leader, bringing together all the emergency medical services in the region. We will miss him every day.” 

During his time with Mount Nittany, Kelley brought innovative practices and technology to compassionate care in emergency services. He received the Seven Mountains EMS Council’s Jack Williams Award for improving emergency medical services and the hospital was awarded the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Silver Award.

Kelley had a long history of service and leadership across multiple facets of emergency services. An assistant chief with Undine Fire Company in Bellefonte and a line officer for the Howard Fire Company, he started his career as an EMS provider for Logan Fire Company.

He went on to become executive director of Bellefonte EMS and operations supervisor at Centre LifeLink EMS, and was a flight medic for Life Flight. He also briefly served as Centre County coroner.

“Rich was a pillar to the emergency service organizations here in Centre County,” Centre County 911 wrote in a Facebook post. “Rich was always known for his positive attitude toward everyone he met, his diligent work in the emergency medical field, and simply for being everyone’s friend. Rich played a vital role in our 9-1-1 training program. He always stepped up to the plate for our department with giving our new hires facility tours of the Emergency Department at Mount Nittany, explaining their role as paramedics in the county, and the list goes on.”

His work impacted the entire region through a variety of emergency preparedness and response initiatives. He led the Emergency Preparedness Committee, served on the Centre County Public Information Working Group and was a leader of the Keystone Healthcare Coalition and the South Central Mountains Healthcare Coalition.

“Rich was a great friend to everyone, and made an immense impact on emergency services; not only in Centre County, but all over Pennsylvania,” Centre LifeLink EMS wrote.

Kelley was also praised as a mentor and guiding figure to countless EMS and fire company personnel.

“He was a friend and mentor to many, he was always happy to stop and chat and had a great sense of humor,” Snow Shoe EMS Chief Sharon Nilson wrote in a Facebook post.

“Rich was not only a colleague but also a very good friend to so many people in our public safety community,” Penn State University Ambulance Service wrote. “He was an amazing advocate for EMS and mentor to countless young EMTs and paramedics. Our community lost a great man.”

They were among the many tributes to Kelley that poured in Thursday night and Friday from emergency workers, EMS and fire companies and police departments around Centre County and beyond.

Spring Township Police Department: “Rich was a public servant who gave so much to the community. We will always remember Rich for his dedicated service. Though he may be gone from this world physically, the mark he left through his years of service will live on forever.”

Alpha Fire Company: “Our Fire and EMS families have lost a colleague, a leader and a dear friend. We’re all stunned and hurting, but please keep the men and women of Company 2 [Undine], Company 14 [Howard], and Company 24 [Mount Nittany EMS] in your hearts, your thoughts, and your prayers.”

Pleasant Gap Fire Company EMS: “Rich Kelley was a key member of our extended Fire and EMS family. He left us way too early.”

Citizens Hook & Ladder Co. of Milesburg: “Rich was not only a colleague but also a dear friend of many. His leadership in the EMS and Fire Services was unparalleled. His dedication and passion for his family and work touched the lives of countless individuals and his absence will be deeply felt.”

Boalsburg Fire Company: “Rich touched many lives and will be truly missed.”

Port Matilda EMS: “It’s hard to add to the out pouring of sadness for the loss of a truly great individual, but we at PMEMS would like to express that you will truly be missed. We at PMEMS have lost a great advocate for our service as well as EMS in general.”

Kelley is survived by his wife, Teresa, and their four children.