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Gainesville student remembered as musician, scholar
Tuesday morning wreck killed Kelley, 18
1221WRECK Patrick Kelley
Patrick Kelley

Patrick Kelley was described Tuesday as a "shining light," "a beautiful person" and an "extraordinary human being."

The Gainesville High student turned 18 that day, and died in a wreck on Clarks Bridge Road that afternoon.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said she has known Kelley since he was an infant. She described her emotions as "complete grief and a great loss."

"He was a shining light," she said. "He was a brilliant student and wise beyond his years. He just had so much talent, so much promise."

Kelley was riding in the back seat of a Honda Civic heading southbound on Clarks Bridge Road when it lost control in a curve, crossed the center line and collided with a northbound Toyota Camry just before noon near Honeysuckle Road, Georgia State Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright said.

The Toyota, driven by Jeremiah Linnane, 57, of Clermont pulled onto the shoulder in an attempt to avoid a collision, Wright said.

Wright said charges are pending against the driver, whose identity he did not release. Friends, however, said the car was driven by Kelley's 16-year-old brother, Christopher Kelley. Wright identified another passenger as Harmon Andrew Kelley, 15, who friends said was another brother.

All three brothers, as well as Linnane, were transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where Patrick Kelley was later pronounced dead.

Andrew and Christopher Kelley were treated and released, and Linnane was in serious but stable condition late Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Those who knew Patrick Kelley spoke of a star student.

His English teacher said he was hoping to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or possibly Georgia Tech, where he was being considered for the President's Scholarship, awarded to just 75 high school seniors annually.

"Patrick is actually the only reason I've been checking my school email over the break," Cindy Lloyd said.

She was preparing to write a letter of recommendation to help him earn the President's Scholarship. In an email to him, she asked whether he had news about acceptance to MIT.

Monday night, Kelley wrote that he had been deferred and could be accepted through regular admittance.

"I didn't reply and sat and thought about it, formulizing my thoughts, what I wanted to say," Lloyd recalled. "I wanted to say something along the lines of ‘(You're) going to do amazing things wherever you go, and I'm sure everything will work out in the end.'

"I didn't send that reply and, of course, now I wish I had gone ahead and done that."

She described Kelley as "one of the most extraordinary human beings I have ever known."

He was working to become an Eagle Scout.

He was a member of the school's academic team and played the euphonium in the band. He belonged to the Key Club, Beta Club, National Honor Society and the Environmental Awareness Club.

"Patrick is one of those kids who seem to get more hours out of the days than existed," she said. "He was the kind of kid who always had a smile on his face. Kind, polite, just a generous spirit."

And all those commitments weren't to bolster his resume, Lloyd said, but because he wanted to make a difference.

Lydia Sartain said Kelley's parents, Charles and Cheryl Kelley, are both attorneys like she and her husband. Their children are around the same age.

"I've seen those boys grow up. I saw Patrick play the cello at the Centennial talent show. He just was so talented and smart," she said. "... And just a really good, solid young man."

Her daughter Callie Sartain has been going to school with Patrick Kelley since middle school.

"Patrick was probably the most genuine person I've ever known," Callie Sartain said. "He was so sweet, just a great guy all around. I've never heard him say anything mean or negative about anyone. He would do anything for anyone. I cannot think of one bad trait he had."

Like Kelley's teachers, Callie Sartain also expected him to lead a life full of success.

"If he had survived he was going to do great things. He would have gone very far in life," she said. "He's going to be missed a lot."

Kay Parks met Kelley as he participated in and won Jackson EMC's Energy Bowl in 2010, a competition focused on science, math and technology.

Parks, a community relations representative for Jackson EMC, remembered how humble Kelley was.
"He instantly just kind of stood out," Parks said.

After winning that bowl, Kelley served for a year as the utility's delegate in the Electric Membership Washington Youth Tour.

What Parks remembered most about him, aside from his intelligence, was his ever-present smile and graciousness. She said Kelley drove her crazy by insisting on calling her "ma'am."

"He had a heart of gold ... the soul of a beautiful person," she said. "He smiled all the time. His smile, it glowed. I never saw him when he wasn't smiling."

She struggled Tuesday evening to accept the news of his death.

"I don't know who to compare him to — Steve Jobs? He had the world by a string," Parks said. "... If Gainesville needed to make any other maps in this world, Patrick would have had a hand in putting us on it."

Little & Davenport Funeral Home in Gainesville is handling funeral arrangements, which have not yet been announced.

Staff writers Dallas Duncan and Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.