DELMAR — William J. Kelleher, a staunch public advocate and the voice behind Clearwater for Bethlehem, died on Thursday, March 4, at the age of 93.
Kelleher, an educator and civil engineer, was a constant presence in Bethlehem Town Hall in the mid-90s, as a continued critic of the town’s water filtration plant off Clapper Road shortly after it was built on Schermerhorn Island in 1996. Issues over the plant’s under performance would be the subject of town board meetings well into the 2000s, with Kelleher often leading the charge.
In 2018, Kelleher shifted his focus on Slingerland’s Cherry Avenue Extension. With traffic long managed under a 55 mph speed limit, he advocated for a reduced speed limit to mitigate the risk of vehicular accidents with pedestrians and other motorists. The town soon followed with a study, and later reduced the speed limit.
Bill was the son of the late Daniel and Margaret (Bounds) Kelleher and was born in Schenectady, NY. He graduated from Nott Terrace High School and then caught the tail end of World War II in the US Army. After getting a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from RPI he went on to earn a Master’s degree from Purdue University. Early in his career, Bill taught Sanitary Engineering at RPI and became passionate about the peaceful and safe uses of nuclear energy. In the early 1950’s, he participated in the study of radioactive fallout from atomic bomb testing in Nevada.
After a few years in private engineering, Bill joined the New York State Health Department and then transferred to the Department of Environmental Conservation. In addition to safe nuclear power, Bill became an advocate for keeping the world’s water supply available and clean. At the end of his career, he returned to teaching environmental engineering at Norwich University. Bill felt very strongly that our environmental future depends on a solid base of educated scientists. He loved to say “If you learn logic, there is nothing you cannot do”.
One of Bill’s favorite vacation spots, Sacandaga Lake, is where he taught his children to swim, waterski and fish. He and Dorothy were also fond of Siesta Key Beach in Florida. He was a Civil War history buff and traveled to several of the battle sites. Bill and Dorothy belonged to a local hiking club and did cross-country skiing.
Bill is survived by his beloved wife of 69 years, Dorothy Rose (Connors) and his three children – Kathleen Kelleher (Tony Knox), William P. Kelleher and Maureen Gray (Mark). He is also survived by his sisters – Joan Holzhauer and Marjorie Shea. Bill was grandfather to 8 grandchildren and great grandfather to five children. He was predeceased by his grandson, Brendan Michael Cullen, one of the great sadnesses of Bill’s life. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews. We will all miss our husband, Dad, and Grandfather.
Calling hours were at Applebee Funeral Home followed by a funeral mass at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Delmar.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, 56 Game Farm Rd, Delmar, NY 12054.
— Michael Hallisey