NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Senior citizens in Queens paid tribute Saturday to a friend who served his community and his country through music.
Some old friends of late, great trumpet player Walter Kelly Jr. gathered on 132nd Avenue near Farmers Boulevard in Springfield Gardens.
Kelly was a Queens native with more accomplishments than you can count, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported.
“He played with Duke Ellington band, he was on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,” daughter Robyn Gibson-Evans said.
“Played in the United States Army band during the Korean War. He earned the rank of sergeant,” said Donovan Richards, of Far Rockaway.
Kelly passed away in January, and Saturday his block was christened with its new name – Walter Kelly Jr. Way.
Musical legacy aside, his friends and neighbors best knew Kelly as a regular at the Robert Couche Senior Center, which is run by his widow.
“You’re a queen, your husband was a king, and we’re grateful,” a woman told her, tearing up.
“It gave him an opportunity to play music for senior citizens and bring some happiness into their lives,” friend Noel Carter said.
The feelings were mutual.
“My dad would be, he would be so touched to see your faces,” Gibson-Evans said.
Perhaps what makes the tribute so important to Kelly’s family is that it’s one of the few things they have left to remember him by. After an 80-year career as a musician, his widow doesn’t have any recordings of him actually playing, Bauman reported.
“You don’t prepare for death. You never prepare for that,” Eleanor Kelly said. “So each day was a day.”
The community now has each other and Walter Kelly Jr. Way.
Kelly also received a certificate of merit for his dedication and service to the U.S. Military.