Anne M. Kelly, who earned college and law degrees at night school before becoming the first female corporate officer for the Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company, died Saturday at Cedar Crest continuing care retirement community in Pompton Plains. She was 91.
Born in Union City and raised in North Bergen, she was a longtime resident of Wayne. Ms. Kelly attended what is now New Jersey City University and Woods Secretarial School and worked in offices and at beach resorts and department stores before earning a Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education with honors, specializing in chemistry, from Fordham University in 1952. She worked as technical editor of a patent bulletin for Nopco Chemical Co. in Harrison and took courses in data processing and indexing at Rutgers University before going to work in 1964 at Warner-Lambert, now part of Pfizer.
Her first job was as a literature scientist, then a patent agent.
“My boss suggested I go to law school,” she later told an in-house publication. “Every year, he’d ask me, ‘You thought any more about going to law school?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ I said, ‘I’ve thought about it – and I don’t want to go.’ Eventually they talked me into going.”
She was graduated from Seton Hall University Law School with honors in 1977 and worked as senior attorney on the corporate staff until 1980, when she was named corporate secretary, a post she held for five years.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful way to learn how large corporations were run,” Ms. Kelly said. “I think the fact that I was a woman probably helped. I think they were trying to make a statement.”
Trailblazing came with some difficulty, however.
“There were some people who did not like the idea that women were trying to get ahead a little bit,” she said. But she noticed those who resisted women’s advancement seemed to change their views -- when their daughters reached high school age.
“There was a dramatic difference in the way they treated me,” she said. “I would look and wonder, what happened?”
Ms. Kelly was a parishioner of St. Mary’s R.C. Church in Pompton Lakes.
An avid skier, she was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and Miramar Ski Club in Vermont and continued to ski cross country well into her 80s. She also traveled widely, subscribed to several New York theaters, loved opera, and frequently attended programs at Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., and at the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts. She was active in the League of Women Voters in Wayne and member of the Catholic Alumni Club and the American Association of University Women.
The daughter of the late Joseph Kelly and Anna Boos Kelly, she was predeceased by a brother, James Kelly; two sisters, Jeanne Jackson and Miriam Madden; and a nephew, Joseph Jackson. She is survived by five nieces, Jeanne Pasko Monroe, Lauri Jackson Landau, Donna M. Chadwick, Eileen K. Petrie and Lorraine K. Totty; and six nephews, Paul Jackson, Gerard Jackson, Herb Jackson, Richard Madden, James Kelly Jr., and Thomas Kelly. Cremation will be private and a memorial service will be scheduled after the pandemic subsides. Donations may be made to St. Mary’s R.C. Church, 31 Pompton Avenue, Pompton Lakes, NJ 07442, or to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation at www.macular.org.
Arrangements are by the Vander Plaat Funeral Home, www.vpfh.com, 257 Godwin Avenue, Wyckoff, NJ 07481.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Anne M Kelly, please visit our floral store.
St. Mary's RC Church
31 Pompton Avenue, Pompton Lakes NJ 07442
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
P.O. Box 515, Northampton MA 01061