Fillman Abbott Kelsey, Class of 1928

April 06, 2001
Santa Paula High School
By B. J. Harding, President, SPUHS Alumni Association Biography #131 (Have you submitted yours?)Born in Berkeley, Fillman moved to Saticoy with his parents, Earle and Myrtle Fillman Kelsey at age 1 year. They lived on Grandfather Kelsey’s ranch, who built the first tractor in the county. This was the inspiration for “Fil’s” mechanical abilities. Earl and Myrtle built a home on Middle Road in Santa Paula, and Fil and his younger brother Halford “Hap” (‘38) attended Briggs grade school and later SPUHS.At SPUHS Fil was on the football team, in the Ford Club and the Latin Club, was president of his freshman class, in the Festival of Nations, in the junior play, and was manager as well as an actor in the operetta. He was a member of the orchestra and band all four years.Fil was given a rusty old Ford car by a neighbor and he proceeded to repair the old car and, with his buddy Charles Outland (‘28), spent hours painting and fixing up the old Ford. For a graduation present to Charles and his brother Lawrence (‘26), the Outlands gave the boys a trip to Alaska and invited Fil to join them. both families agreed to let the boys drive the remodeled Ford to Vancouver, where they met the senior Outlands for the rest of the Alaskan trip. They camped along the roadside and cooked their meals on bonfires.Fil went to U.C. Berkeley for four years to study engineering, and then left to study horticulture at UCLA for a year. He came back to Santa Paula to work on his father’s ranch. In 1935 he married Florence Dodge and they moved to his parents’ ranch on Foothill Road. This is where they lived when their children, Bruce (‘54) and Marilyn (‘55), were born.
Fil always loved the water and boating. He bought a motor boat and sailed it on McGrath Lake and joined the Ventura Yacht Club. He then bought a 27-foot sailboat and moved it to the Santa Barbara Yacht Club. He was elected staff commodore of the Ventura Yacht Club in 1951, and was one of the first to be elected a life member. He was active with other members in promoting the harbor in Ventura.In 1960 Hap and Fil sold the family ranches, and Fil and Florence purchased a house at the beach in Ventura. They were asked to “house sit” a friends’ home in Lompoc for two years while the friends sailed their sailboat to the South Pacific, so they sold their own home to “house sit.” They then moved near their son Bruce in Bakersfield to retire.Fil was honored by the Church of Religious Science in Ventura for his extraordinary dedication. He was always interested in photography, reading and travel.Fil had a sudden heart attack on February 16, 2001, which took his life. He left his wife of 66 years, Florence, and their children Bruce and Marilyn, seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

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