Woodstock woman helped others through devotion to community

WOODSTOCK – All Phyllis Close wanted was a map.

When she walked into the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Industry 16 years ago to get one, she ended up with a lifelong friend, a woman whose community involvement would rub off on her.

That friend, Lisa Kelly, died at age 69 Saturday of kidney failure, her son Spencer Kelly said.

"She touched so many lives in Woodstock, it's just incredible," Close said.

Kelly's commitment to community guided her involvement in several Woodstock organizations. She served as executive director of the chamber in the second half of the 1990s and early 2000s, and had continued to serve on the chamber's board until her illness forced her to step away.

Kelly also was president of both the Rotary Club of Woodstock and Woodstock Professional & Business Women and was involved at the Woodstock Opera House.

"She had a true passion for Woodstock and was very vested in the community," said Shari Gray, the Chamber's current executive director.

Gray said that in addition to her community volunteerism and leadership, Kelly often made behind-the-scenes donations.

"What a lot of people don't realize is that she was a benefactor to a lot of different organizations anonymously," Gray said. "She was extremely generous in that respect."

For the opera house, Kelly took lead roles on fundraising events and projects over the course of a relationship that started more than 15 years ago, Director John Scharres said. Most recently, she served on the board of the Friends of the Opera House and representing the group on the city's Opera House Advisory Commission.

"We'll miss her," Scharres said. "She was a lot of help and she worked on so many different levels, both here and in the community."

Kelly's focus on others often was contagious, friends said.

For Close, an encounter with Kelly early in her Woodstock life encouraged continued involvement. Close won the Chamber's "Volunteer of the Year" award in 2003 and WPBW's "Woman of the Year" award in 2010. She also runs her own non-profit, Bear Hugs for Chicagoland.

"She was the first person that I met when I moved here 16 years ago," Close said. "The rest of the story is: she got me involved in everything.

"All I wanted was a map."

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