Obituary: William ‘Bill’ Skelley; Former Selectman, ‘A True Belmontian’

Photo: William R. Skelley III (Linkedin)

William R. Skelley III, a born and bred Belmontan who served two terms as a Selectman and was known for the honesty and high integrity he brought to town government, died on April 3, 2018, in hospice care in New Hampshire.

Skelley, 70, died from a reoccurrence of cancer he fought for several years, according to close friends.

“He was a mentor to me, one of the best persons who served on the board,” said Mark Paolillo, who spoke to Skelley a few weeks ago. “He was a true Belmontian who served his hometime in a quiet but efficient way.”

“Skelley had a very passionate love for Belmont,” said Jim Staton, a longtime Belmont town official. 

Skelley grew up on Warwick Road with his brothers and sisters. Skelley’s father, William Skelley, spent 40 years on the Cambridge Fire Department retiring as a Lieutenant firefighter in 1982. His mother, Edna K. (Sullivan) Skelley, was a long-time supporter of a Belmont Senior Center. 

An outstanding athlete and student at Belmont schools, Skelley was senior class president at Belmont High School – he was known as “Mr. Belmont High School” – as well as football co-captain his senior year. He was also a member of Belmont’s Division 2 state championship team the previous year.

After graduating from Belmont, Skelley matriculated at Harvard College, playing football for the Crimson and graduating in  1970. He earned a Master’s in History from Boston College in 1972 and an MBA from Boston University in 1976.

Living on Common Street with his wife, Linda, and children, the 1990s was Skelley’s time in town government first elected to Town Meeting from Precinct 5 in 1990. Due to his business background – he worked for Polaroid for nearly a quarter century in customer service and technical support – he was appointed to the Warrant Committee the next year. He was recruited to run for selectman by then-selectman Walter Flewelling and was elected in 1994 and serving until 2000, the final three years as vice chair.

“While he did have differences with other members of the board, he was always looking to do what was best for Belmont,” said Paolillo. Many highlighted Skelley’s involvement in the first Financial Task Force and his major role on the McLean Hospital land agreement. “He also tried to unite what was at times a contentious board. He could do that because he had no ill will to anyone,” said Paolillo. 

Staton said one area Skelley should be praised was his commitment to equality in all areas, as he reached out to Boston innercity youths.

“He was also quite interested in the town’s kids,” said former Board of Health Chair David Alper, who noted Skelley advocated for a Youth Commission to support Belmont’s younger residents. Nearly everyone said Skelley had a “special spot” for youth sports, volunteering on the fields and in the rinks and supporting every team with his presence.

Skilley founded Skelley Medical Company in 1997 which was headquartered in Cushing Square until he moved the operation to Hollis, NH at the invitation of then-Gov. John Lynch, which ended his involvement in Belmont government and saw him uproot to New Hampshire. The firm was praised by President Obama and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and was recognized as the Exporter of the Year for both New Hampshire and New England by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2012.

The company, whose mission was “the reduction of global healthcare costs by providing affordable comprehensive medical equipment solutions,” filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2015, a year after a federal lawsuit was filed against it by a Panama-based investment firm.

With his business closed, Skelley began reconnecting with his hometown, having converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He attended the 50th anniversary of the Marauders championship football team and became a leader in the Veterans Memorial Committee which is seeking to build a new memorial at Clay Pit Pond.

“Bill got involved with the memorial committee not because he was a veteran; he wanted those who did serve to be recognized for what they did for the town and country,” said former Selectman Angelo Firenze, the committee’s president.

His wife, the former Linda Phelps, died a year ago in May just as the couple returned to Belmont. The couple raised their three children, William, Christopher and Maryelizabeth (Fiengo), in Belmont. He was the brother of Barbara Skelley of Belmont, Cathleen Mullins and her husband Kevin of Waltham and the late Ann Marie Carey and Mary Elizabeth Skelley.

Visting hours will be at Stanton Funeral Home, 786 Mt. Auburn St., in Watertown on Friday, April 6 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A celebration of the Funeral Mass will be held in the Church of St. Luke, 132 Lexington St. on Saturday, April 7 at 9 a.m. Burial will take place at Highland Meadows Cemetery in Belmont.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Community Hospice House, 210 Naticook Rd, Merrimack, NH 03054 would be appreciated.

Correction: Mr. Skelley’s name was incorrectly written the headline. We regret the error.

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