J. Kellum's Story

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Kellum Smith died in his home in Saranac, NY on April 7, 2017 at 89. Throughout busy years of career and raising a family in New York City, Kellum nurtured a dream of returning to the rural roots of his boyhood. Over the course of many visits, he fell in love with the North Country and finally bought a dilapidated old farm overlooking the Saranac Valley and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. In 1991 he made Saranac his home with his beloved Angel, and they began a new life together.
A throwback to an earlier era, Kellum could at the drop of a hat recite a poem or sing a ditty. Dozens of limericks would roll off his tongue, frequently at happy hour when his friends and neighbors, a collective affectionately known as the "local losers," would gather daily at 6:00 pm. Kellum was a generous and jovial host who loved discourse - wine and conversation flowed liberally. He enjoyed and engaged easily with people from all walks of life and he felt truly enriched by the wide variety of friendships he made here.
J. Kellum Smith, Jr. was born in New York City in 1927, the son of James Kellum and Elizabeth Dexter (Walker) Smith. His father was a prominent architect and the last partner in the great firm McKim, Mead & White and was president of the American Academy in Rome, and Kellum grew up in a stimulating milieu of artists and scholars. In the midst of the Great Depression his family moved to an ancient farm in rural Buck's County, Pennsylvania, where he attended a one-room schoolhouse and then the Quaker Buckingham Friends School. Following graduation from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1945, he served in the U.S. Army. In 1950 he graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, where he majored in Greek and Latin, and became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School in 1953, and practiced Admiralty Law with the eminent New York City firm Lord, Day & Lord until 1959, when his career made a dramatic shift into the world of foundations and philanthropy.
His friend, the great humanist Henry Allen Moe, recognized qualities in Kellum that could be developed and applied in more useful and far-reaching ways. Moe "anointed" Kellum, appointing him Assistant Secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and gave his blessing when Kellum soon moved over to the Rockefeller Foundation. Kellum served as Secretary for a dozen years at Rockefeller, from 1962-74. The last and longest leg of his career was with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1974-89, as Secretary and Vice-President for fifteen years, followed by four years as Senior Fellow and six as Senior Advisor. The particular areas in which Kellum remained engaged and committed throughout his career were education, the arts, population control, and public health. He was most proud of his work with the Population Council, supporting research in biomedicine, social science, and public health, and helping to build research capacities in developing countries.
In New York City Kellum served as a trustee and frequently as an officer of many organizations, including the American Academy in Rome, the Brearley School, the Canterbury Choral Society, the Foundation for Child Development, the National Institute of Architectural Education, the National Sculpture Society, and Saint Bernard's School, and was a member of the Century Association. In the North Country he served on the boards of the Champlain Valley Oratorio Society and the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, and was a member of the Fort Ticonderoga Association. Along with his wife Angela, he founded Hill and Hollow Music and for twenty years was its president.
Kellum's wide-ranging interests included writing, photography, music, history, ballistics, boats, sailing, and environmental conservation. He wrote several works on regional history, as well as dozens of essays on myriad topics. He had a beautiful resonant voice and began voice study as a teen in Rome. He sang unabashedly throughout his life, both as soloist and ensemble member in oratorio, art song, and opera. Similarly he began practicing photography in high school and continued through adulthood; his work was shown in several exhibitions in New York, Cape Cod, and Plattsburgh. Kellum "swallowed the anchor" when he relocated to the North Country, and for the rest of his life focused his energy and resources on Weatherwatch Farm, re-building structures and rehabilitating fields and forest. He found it deeply satisfying to preserve and nurture his tiny piece of the planet, which he loved to share with his family and friends.
He is survived by his wife Angela Brown and his former wife and the mother of his children, Sarah Tod (Lohmann) Smith; four children and their spouses/partners: Alison Andrews Smith and Andreas Anrather of Brooklyn, NY; Timothy Kellum and Jennifer Crick Smith of Madison CT; Jennifer Harlow and Stephen Hayden of Hopewell, NJ; and Christopher Lohmann Smith and Heather Loewecke of New York City; and seven grandchildren: Helena and Julia Anrather; Anthony, Isabel, and Lucy Smith; and Christopher and Charlotte Hayden. He is also survived by his only sister and her husband, Anne Dexter and Carl Smith of Stamford, CT.
The family gratefully acknowledges the abundant loving care given to Kellum by John Dann, Renata Erickson, Nancy Keysor, Paul Osenbaugh, and Erica Swift. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Clinton County Historical Association (98 Ohio Ave., Plattsburgh, NY 12903), Hill and Hollow Music (550 #37 Rd., Saranac, NY 12981), or Planned Parenthood of the North Country New York (66 Brinkerhoff St., Plattsburgh, NY 12901).
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 24 at 11:00 am at the Saranac United Methodist Church on Route 3 in Saranac.
Published on April 17, 2017
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