Kelley Robbins loved to talk, sometimes about his business, sometimes about the business of the county, but most of all, about his family. He and his wife Jean had two children, Katie and Kyle. They were also blessed with the next generation, two grandchildren, Finn and Maeve, who could overwhelm this gentle man with their activities. But he loved every minute of it.
“Oh, those grandkids are just terrible,” he’d comment, ending the conversation with a wink of his eye and a broad grin. He loved his family deeply.
Kelley also loved Scott County. He was born in 1953 in Scottsburg to the late John M. Sr. and Goldie Pearl Comer Robbins. The family farmed in Finley Township. Kelley and his brothers and sisters all graduated from Scottsburg High School, Kelley saying goodbye in 1971. He enrolled at Purdue University, earning a bachelor’s degree in horticulture. He returned to Scott County in 1974 to start Robbins’ Landscaping and Nursery, building a couple of greenhouses and planting fields of young spruce that he trimmed into fine-looking Christmas trees. Dozens of families over the past 42 years have trekked across his fields, searching for the ideal tree to take home and decorate.
Kelley married the former Jean Mulcahy in 1978. They soon added a daughter and son to the Robbins clan.
Kelley always had a passion for public health. His father, John, advocated for public health as a County Councilman in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. His sister, Sharon Prall, served as both a school nurse for Scott County School District 2 and the Scott County Public Health Department’s Health Nurse for over 30 years. His mother, Goldie, worked for the Scott County Health Department and Welfare Department in the 1970’s and 80’s, frequently assisting families in obtaining health care. His wife, Jean, has served as the Scott County WIC Director for 39 years.
Kelley became a member of the County Council when John Sr. retired. He then offered his services to the County Commissioners when a vacancy occurred about three years ago. He won that Democrat caucus. He rarely missed a meeting of either the County Council or Commissioners, but his seat was empty for two meetings in early 2018 as he battled cancer and heart problems.
Kelley lost that battle at his home late on Friday morning, February 9, surrounded by his family and several of his friends. He was 64.
During his service to his community, Kelley was a member of the Church of American Martyrs and Knights of Columbus Council 8052. For his county, he served as a president and a member of the Scott County Economic Development Corporation board of directors and the Southeast Indiana Recycling District board. He enjoyed serving and most enjoyed the conversations he’d have with others wanting this county to move forward despite its problems.
In Kelley’s 26 years as a Scott County Councilman and 3 years as a County Commissioner, public health has always been at the forefront of issues he identified as important. The HIV outbreak in 2015 strengthened his long term commitment to ensure the future of Scott County’s health remain a priority. He strongly supported moving the Scott County Health Department into a new building, and had remarked, “I think (improving local health services) is one of the best things we’ve done in a while for our residents. We need to concentrate more on living better lives, healthier lives.”
After Kelley passed, his family decided to establish the Kelley Robbins Endowment for Public Health. As a donor-advised fund, the family can all take part in recommending grants that they feel would support Kelley’s vision for a healthier community.
“The Community Foundation has provided a wonderful opportunity with the establishment of an endowment fund that will enable the continuation of Kelley’s devotion to public health and Scott County for years to come,” shared Jean.