Cynthia Kelly dies at 81; older sister of Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown with his sister Cynthia Kelly in 2010.

Gov. Jerry Brown with his sister Cynthia Kelly in 2010.

(Hector Amezcua / Associated Press)

One of Gov. Jerry Brown’s three sisters, Cynthia Kelly, died on Sunday, according to the family.

Kelly was 81 and had been suffering from health problems, said Kathleen Brown, another sister.

“She had an exuberant spirit,” Brown said. “She had an enormous curiosity about people and a kind heart.”


Kelly, a former elementary school teacher, was married to a retired lawyer and had five children. One of her children, Kathleen Kelly, is a superior court judge in San Francisco.

Since her childhood, Jerry Brown said in a statement, “my sister Cynthia had an infectious smile that would light up any room. She loved to be with her friends and family and was with them to the very end.”

Kelly was the second of four children born to former Gov. Pat Brown and his wife, Bernice. Like her older sister Barbara, she was not as politically active as her younger siblings, Jerry and Kathleen. (In addition to Jerry’s four terms as governor and his presidential campaigns, Kathleen served as state treasurer and ran unsuccessfully for governor against Pete Wilson in 1994.)

However, Kelly was an avid supporter. When Jerry Brown was running for president, Kathleen Brown said, Kelly “would bring her children, and they would have ‘Uncle Jerry for President’ shirts on.”

She added, “She liked attending all of the events. She liked to participate and be the cheerleader for the family.”

Kathleen Brown said Kelly raised her children in the family home on Magellan Avenue in San Francisco.

“She was the convener of the family’s gatherings for Christmas and Thanksgiving,” she said.

Jerry Brown dedicated a gubernatorial proclamation to Kelly, naming Oct. 19, 2013, as “Cynthia Kelly Day.”

In the proclamation, he honored Kelly for her work with San Francisco art museums and teased her about youthful “hijinks” while a college student.

He ended the text by identifying himself as “Governor of the State of California, but more importantly, beloved brother” to Cynthia.

In addition to her daughter Kathleen, Kelly is survived by her husband, Joseph, and four children, Joseph, Carol, Patricia and Cynthia.

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