By ANGIE CARNATHAN
OCH Regional Medical Center will hold a retirement reception for Arthur C. “Sonny” Kelly.
Wednesday from 4:30-6 p.m. at the OCH Regional Medical Center Educational Facility. Kelly’s last day at the medical center is Wednesday, after 38 years of service.
Kelly is father to son Davis Kelly, who is married to Shelly Kelly and they have three kids: Douglas, and twin girls Madeline and Jillian. Kelly’s daughter Ann Marie Neave is married to Stuart Neave, and they have two children, Zoe and Eilidh. Sonny and Gail Kelly’s son, Zak, is a 5th grader.
Kelly said after 38 years at OCH Regional Medical Center, he feels the most rewarding part of his career has been a constant reaffirmation of his belief that some of the finest people in the world are those that devote their lives and talents to the healing arts.
“In our community, those people consist of citizens that serve on the Board of Trustees, physicians on the medical staff and the professional and nonprofessional employees of the hospital employee staff,” Kelly said. “Most people never think about the hospital until it is needed in times of illness and medical emergency, then it becomes the most important part of the community to them.”
Kelly said his proudest accomplishment from his tenure has been the simple fact that the hospital has been able to grow and change with the community, as the local community and those in other areas using the hospital have grown.
“We have been able to provide some of the best physicians, facilities and equipment available anywhere,” Kelly said. “I do not see this as an individual accomplishment but rather an opportunity to be a part of a great combined effort of many individuals.”
Although Kelly looks over his career fondly, he said is definitely looking forward to having more time with his family in retirement and seeing what the next chapter of his life will bring him.
“I have five grand children, three in Starkville and two in Scotland, and a son age 10 still at home,” Kelly said. “I look forward to seeing them develop into the potential they all have. I also plan to travel and see some of the other states that I haven’t visited and maybe, if good health and opportunity allows it, to start up another late life career.”
Kelly said he’d like to thank all of his family and friends for helping him keep a sane mind in what has been a high pressure career.
“I want to acknowledge all those I have worked with over the years, board members, physicians and employees of the medical center past and present, the two other administrators of the medical center who straightened me out occasionally and provided wonderful personal and professional support, the people of our community who have steadfastly supported their medical center and the many professional affiliations I have had with others over the years,” Kelly said.
OCH Regional Medical Center Assistant Administrator and Chief Operating Officer Mike Andrews said he has worked with Kelly for 26 years and has throughly enjoyed every minute.
“He is the best boss anyone could have,” Andrews said. “He cares so much about his employees — many of us will never be able to repay him for all that he has taught us and done for us through the years.”
Andrews said Kelly’s commitment to OCH Regional Medical Center and the Starkville and MSU community is profound.
“He has played an active role in the area’s economic development efforts,” Andrews said. “His continual efforts to improve, upgrade and/or expand hospital facilities, services, equipment and staffing, and his work to recruit the very best physicians has ensured that our hospital remains competitive with other area facilities. He is without a doubt responsible for OCH’s growth and success.”
President and Chief Executive Officer of the Mississippi Hospital Association Sam Cameron said Kelly has contributed tremendously to the state with his involvement in organizations outside of OCH Regional Medical Center.
“He is well respected by his peers and can always be counted on to give wise counsel on issues of great complexity,” Cameron said. “I appreciate his involvement in all aspects of the association. On a lighter side, I look back with fondness on several ‘road trips’ that he, Dale Saulters, myself and others took over the years. Those will always hold a special meaning to me for the close bond that was developed, and I look forward to many more years of our continued friendship.”
Former Winston Medical Center Administrator Dale Saulters said Kelly is one of a dying breed.
A hospital administrator with 38 years at the same facility is unheard of this day and time,” Saulters said. “He put OCH on the map and has been totally dedicated to the local community and to making sure that hospital and the services it provides are top-notch. I enjoyed working with him over the years, and I’m fortunate to call him my friend.”
Richard Hilton, who becomes the new OCH Regional Medical Center administrator and CEO on March 1 said Kelly recruited him in March 1983 to begin working as the associate administrator.
“It was during this recruitment process that I saw something in Sonny Kelly that set him apart from other hospital administrators,” Hilton said. “Sonny was very zealous in promoting OCH and the Starkville community, and he had a clear vision of what he wanted to see happen in the years to come. OCH was starting the 1983 South Wing construction/expansion project at that time, and now, six major capital projects later, under Sonny’s leadership, the Starkville area now has access to medical facility comparable –– if not nicer than –– many in cities such as Jackson, Birmingham, Ala. and Memphis, Tenn.”
Hilton said Kelly’s continuing inspiration for the hospital, the developing medical staff and the overall community has taken OCH Regional Medical Center where it is today.
“My hat goes off to a very dynamic individual with a proven track record for making quality health care readily available through OCH,” Hilton said. “Given the wealth of his background, health care knowledge and expertise, in my mind, he is irreplaceable. I commend him for a job well done and wish him well in his retirement.”
Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Martha Fulcher, RNC, BSN, said she was not sure she could adequately put her thoughts and feelings of respect and admiration into words.
“I’m not sure where to start,” Fulcher said. “Sonny Kelly has had a tremendous influence on my professional life and career. I still remember how very impressed I was when I met him as a new nurse on the hospital’s third floor 33 years ago. It was about 8 p.m., and he was walking the floors making rounds. He stopped to introduce himself, and when I introduced myself, he immediately knew who I was, specifically acknowledging the fact that I chose to drive all the way from Nanih Wayih to work everyday. That meant so much to me and really inspired and motivated me.”
Fulcher said Kelly has always been very supportive of the hospital’s nursing services.
“In my many years as a unit manager, as well as the last eight years as chief nursing officer, I have experienced his commitment first hand,” Fulcher said. “Whether related to training or equipment or process, he has always been willing to listen to our requests and whenever possible, provide the resources needed for the benefit of our staff and our patients. He has also been a regular part of our annual Nurses’ Day celebrations and festivities –– even dressing up and playing the role of a cowboy, army general, or whatever was needed to carry out our theme.”
Former Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan said he’s known Kelly for over 35 years and considers him a fine man who is ready to help in any situation.
“Sonny is very community-minded and is willing to do whatever is needed to help our community,” Bryan said. “He has also always wanted to give back to our community, and with this in mind, he came to see me, and I put him to work as an auxiliary deputy sheriff. He has served Oktibbeha County well in this capacity for over 20 years. I am proud to call Sonny Kelly a very good friend and a dependable member of my staff. The citizens of this county and the surrounding counties are very fortunate to have had him as the administrator at OCH for the past 38 years.”
President of Sullivan’s Office Supply and 2012 Greater Starkville Development Partnership Board Chairman Steve Langston said Kelly has guided the OCH Regional Medical Center from infancy to the state-of-the-art facility it is today.
“The hospital and the medical community are a vital part of our economic success in Oktibbeha County,” Langston. “They comprise our county’s second largest employer and do so much for our quality of life which attracts people to our area. Sonny has always been active in the GSDP and all areas of community development. He fully understands the important fact that success in each and every aspect of the community helps the entire community.”
Dr. Chester Lott of Starkville said Kelly offered him his first job in health care as an EMT at the hospital.
“He was instrumental in my decision to go to medical school and provided continual encouragement while I was there,” Lott said. “It was wonderful to return to Starkville and OCH to practice, where he was still at the helm, actively pursuing his vision of developing first class facilities, offering the latest technology and recruiting a well-trained workforce along with a diverse staff of physician specialists.”
Lott said when one looks around Mississippi, one sees that very few county-owned hospitals have survived.
“Thanks to Mr. Kelly’s tireless efforts, OCH has not only survived, but thrived,” Lott said. “His commitment to the local community and dedication to providing quality health care are evident in the hospital facility and medical community we have today.”