Eliza de la Flor
Leonard “Lenny” Kelley, 60, a military veteran and a Viking newspaper alumnus, died in his sleep Saturday, Oct. 31.
Kelley, who was born April 27, 1955 in St. Louis, joined the Viking newspaper as a journalism major in Fall 2012.
He developed his skills first as a staff writer and photographer and later as an editor and editorial artist.
He attended the Journalism Association of Community Colleges regional convention in Fullerton in Fall 2013 and was awarded honorable mention for a photo taken at the LAC. He was also awarded honorable mention in an on-the-spot competition for a photo with the theme “mental illness,” which he took with a point-and-shoot camera.
Kelley also attended the state convention in Spring 2014 in Burbank, and was recognized with honorable mention for a panoramic photo of the LAC Front Quad in a bring-in contest.
He is survived by his mother, Lee Kelley, of Newport Beach; his daughter, Natalia Hibbert, of Desloge, Mo.; his son Leonard Kelley, Jr. of Springfield, Mo.; and four grandchildren. Kelley also had a son, Michael Starr Kelley, who died in 2014.
The photojournalist’s former Viking colleagues and his family took to social media to share not just the sad news of his passing, but also their memories of his colorful character.
Kelley’s friend Rachael Gracia Gomez said in a Facebook post that Kelley “was my dear friend. … I loved him. He was a very special person.”
His daughter Hibbert responded, “It’s amazing to see the lives he touched. He is greatly missed.” Hibbert traveled to California on Oct. 31 to bring Kelley home for services in Missouri.
Gomez said Kelley was “laid to rest in Missouri alongside his son Nov. 12.”
Kelley is remembered by many at LBCC for his smile, his kindness and his fondness for bright colors, which he used to decorate his bike and brighten his hair, which was usually pulled back in a low ponytail.
Steven Stolle attended LBCC as a business major and met Kelley when Stolle worked in the Financial Aid office as a work-study student. Kelley was attempting to set a Guinness World Record with Boot Day, by getting a large number of students to wear boots on the same day and get a picture of the event. Stolle, who now majors in business administration at Cal State Long Beach, said Kelley was a hard-working veteran and the two formed a fast friendship.
Stolle said, “We treated each other like brothers, like family.”
Kelley is also remembered for his love of music and radio. He was a DJ for LBCC’s KCTY 107.7 FM and had his own talk show, “Prisoners of the Street,” which aired Fridays in Spring 2014. The program discussed current events, with a special focus on the voices and concerns of the homeless population.
Adjunct professor Ken Borgers said Kelley’s show had “always at least one other person as a guest or co-host because he was so much fun.”
Borgers said Kelley “was a delightful guy. A bohemian, colorful character with a ready wit. Relentlessly cheerful.” Borgers said the radio program will be dedicating a day to Kelley.
Fellow Viking alumnus Caleb Ellis said Kelley had a “kind heart that wanted to include everyone.
“He will surely be missed. His colors will never fade.”
Former Viking and City Magazine editor in chief Katie Cortez, now the editor in chief at Cal State Long Beach’s Union Weekly, said, “Lenny will forever be my hero for winning (at the convention) with a point-and-shoot camera.”
Jesus Hernandez, also a former Viking and City magazine editor in chief who has worked on several Long Beach publications, was among the first from LBCC’s journalism program to learn the news. He changed his Facebook cover photo to one of Kelley and wrote, “Rest in peace Lenny. I love you man.” Hernandez was editor in chief during Kelley’s first semester on the Viking.
Photojournalist Stephen Carr, another Viking alumnus who works for the Los Angeles newspaper Group that includes the Long Beach Press-Telegram, expressed his grief and Kelley’s status when he wrote, “Oh no what a unique man.” The sentiment of Kelley’s impact was echoed over and over by people who had known him for several semesters and those who only knew him briefly.
Viking and City magazine alumna Madison Salter described Kelley as “such a great person.” Fellow alum Ramon Lontok, who now writes for online publications, said Kelley “always had a smile for everyone“I’m happy that I got an opportunity to meet him and to be in the same work environment with him.”