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Obituary: Harriet Joan Kelly Radvansky / Dancing sister of Gene Kelly, longtime West Mifflin teacher

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Harriet Joan Kelly Radvansky, the oldest of a group of five dancing Pittsburgh siblings that included movie star Gene Kelly, died Saturday after suffering a series of strokes. She was 92.

Mrs. Radvansky taught for much of her life, primarily in the West Mifflin School District, where her late husband, Michael Radvansky, was superintendent for many years.

But like the other Kelly siblings -- Jim, Gene, Fred and Louise -- Mrs. Radvansky learned to dance at a young age.

Her nephew, Michael Kelly, said: "Grandma insisted they learn the arts. They all had to learn music and dance. The five dancing Kellys used to replace the seven little Foys when they couldn't get to town."

The Foys were a noted vaudeville act later memorialized in a movie starring Bob Hope.

She was named Harriet after her mother, but known to friends and family as J, short for Joan, her middle name.

Louise Kelly Bailey said her sister toured professionally with the Earl Lindsey Revue when she was a teen-ager.

"Aunt J said they made sure everyone was a lady -- no chewing gum, lights out by 8," Michael Kelly said. After the tour ended, that was the end of her dancing career, he said.

But all of the Kellys taught at the family dance studio at one time or another. Mrs. Bailey, who now lives in Dothan, Ala., eventually ran it with her husband, Bill.

Mrs. Radvansky attended what was then Lock Haven State Teachers College and graduated in 1932 from the University of Pittsburgh. She met her husband while teaching in West Mifflin, and they were married in 1949, Bailey said. The couple had no children. Michael Radvansky died in 1994.

"When she went to Pitt, they had tea dances. She had me go with her because she didn't want to go alone. She was a lot of fun. She and Gene used to clown and kid around all the time," Bailey said.

"She enjoyed life," Michael Kelly said. "She liked the outdoors. She liked swimming. She loved to walk. Walking was a passion. She lived the simple life. She was like a kid."

After her husband's death, Mrs. Radvansky moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "She swims, on-line roller skates, plays bridge and she's seven years older than me," her brother Fred told the Post-Gazette in a 1996 interview.

She moved back to Pittsburgh about three years ago to live in an assisted-living facility, Michael Kelly said. "She was always physically fit, always petite, always active. But the last couple of years, she just slowed down," he said.

Visitation with the family is tonight from 7 to 9. Services are scheduled at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow at McCabe Brothers Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St., Shadyside. A Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in Sacred Heart Church, Shadyside.

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