The funeral of Mrs. Josephine Smith Kelley (1924)
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The funeral of Mrs. Josephine Smith Kelley (1924)

The funeral of Mrs. Josephine Smith Kelley (1924)

Mrs. Josephine Kelley, aged 65 years, a respected colored resident, died Sunday after sustaining a second stroke of paralysis. She is survived by a son and daughter. Funeral services will be held at the home 114 Poplar street, Tuesday afternoon, at 2 o’clock, by the Rev. J. A. Harrell. Burial will be in Oaklawn Cemetery.


Josephine Kelley was born Josephine Smith, daughter of Tom Smith, about 1855, in Nansemond County, Virginia.

Per the 1880 Census, Josephine lived near downtown Suffolk with her husband, Walter J. Kelley (b. about 1851), a laborer, and their two children, sons Pearlie, aged two, and Robby, aged three. The record notes that William and Josephine had been married for two years. Per official records, William and Josephine married on August 19, 1884. Jack Douglass and Wealtha Kelley were noted as Walter Kelley’s parents.1

In 1900, Josephine and Walter lived in a modest residence on Poplar Street, one block south of downtown Suffolk. Several generations of family were a part of the household, including their daughter Rosa Kelley Bailey, a widow, mother of Golden “Goldie” Bailey, fourteen, and Pompey Bailey, nine; Mollie and Oakley Kelley, children of Josephine and Walter; a boarder, Alexander Jackson, forty-five, and Mrs. Talligan (sp) Rogers, age eighty-five, listed as the mother (in-law) of Walker J. Kelley. Mollie Kelley, Oakley Kelley, Goldie Bailey and Pompey Bailey, all attended school.2

In 1916, Walter Kelley passed away, and was buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery. After his death, Josephine moved in with her granddaughter, Goldie, wife of William Rodney Bernard of Bertie County, North Carolina. Goldie and William named their only child, Josephine Lorraine Bernard Anthony (1908-1977), after her grandmother. Josephine Kelley.3

Josephine Smith Kelley passed away on December 21, 1924. She was interred on December 23rd in Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Josephine Smith Kelley Family of Suffolk, Virginia

Family surnames

  • VirginiaDinwiddie County: Richardson
  • Isle of Wight County: Anthony Hall
  • Southampton County: Hurst
  • Suffolk City: Chapman, Copeland, Gatling, Hamlin, Hurst, Kelley, Langston, Moore
  • Sussex County: Hamlin, Richardson
  • North CarolinaBertie County: Bernard, Griffin
  • Gates County: Copeland
  • Halifax County: Anthony, Hill

Copyright 2021 Nadia K. Orton

Although I’ve yet to find the graves of neither Walter nor Josephine Smith Kelley in Oak Lawn, I have identified the Kelley Family plot. Located in the northern half of the cemetery, there are a few extant gravestones, and one, very old and large cedar within the plot. One of the existing stones rests atop the grave of Mollie E. Kelley (1882-1903), Walter and Josephine’s youngest daughter. Although part of the stone is broken (left), it contains the clasped hands motif at the top, a symbol that I see quite often on older headstones.

Fixed, though by no means universal, meanings proffered include the hope of meeting in eternity, a farewell to earthly existence, God’s welcome into heaven, friendship, solidarity, unity, partnership and matrimony, particularly if both masculine and feminine sleeves are present. Neither gender nor age are suggested by the hands themselves, which are generally identical in size and style. The motif consistently displays right hands, the front hand extending from the left and the back hand from the right. As a social construction, ‘The right hands represents the life-force, and is the ‘hand of power.

Gary S. Foster and Lisa New Freeland

Grave of Mollie E. Kelley (1882-1903). Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 7, 2012. All rights reserved.
Clasped Hands Motif. Grave of Mollie E. Kelley. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 7, 2012. All rights reserved.

Another extant grave marker in the Kelley plot was placed for Mrs. Evelyn Christine Hurst Kelley, wife of Oakley Burton Kelley, Josephine’s grandson. Evelyn married Oakley in 1937, Suffolk, shortly before they moved north to New York City. Evelyn was the daughter of Mr. William Henry Hurst (1884-1981), and Annie Mae Amonds Hurst (1887-1959), both of Suffolk, Virginia.

Evelyn passed away in 1949, in New York. Her monument is of a common type for families, usually spouses. In this case, only Evelyn’s information is inscribed upon the headstone. This may have been a purposeful choice by her husband Oakley. His inscription is missing, however, as Oakley remained in New York, and wed Mrs. Dorothy E. Williams in 1952. SGT Oakley B. Kelley passed away in 1975, and is interred in Long Island National Cemetery, Farmingdale. His second wife, Dorothy, passed away in 2007, and is also buried in Long Island National.

Grave of Evelyn Christine Hurst Kelley (1914-1949). Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 16, 2012. All rights reserved.

  1. “1880 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 1 July 2021); Virginia, Nansemond, Suffolk, Dist. 55, p. 36 of 42, citing, “Year: 1880; Census Place: Suffolk, Nansemond, Virginia; Roll: 1379; Page: 123D; Enumeration District: 055.”
  2. “1900 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry ( : accessed 2 July 2021); Virginia, Nansemond, Suffolk, Dist. 0030, p. 2 of 45, citing, “Year: 1900; Census Place: Suffolk, Nansemond, Virginia; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 0030; FHL microfilm: 1241719.”
  3. Josephine Lorraine Bernard wed Robert Junious Anthony (1910-1996), son of Isaiah Anthony (1889-1972) and Iona Hall Anthony (1890-1971), on December 4, 1942, in Suffolk, Virginia.”
  4. Foster, Gary S., and Lisa New Freeland. “Hand in Hand Til Death Doth Part: A Historical Assessment of the Clasped-Hands Motif in Rural Illinois.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-), vol. 100, no. 2, University of Illinois Press, 2007, pp. 128–46,”
Nadia Orton

Professional genealogist and public historian. Graduate of Duke University. President of the Sacred Grounds Project, Inc. Studying historic African American cemeteries and communities.

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