Kelly Bell had a zest for life. In her 47 years, she touched the lives of many, whether it was through local breast cancer awareness groups, local youths or her work as a dental assistant.
“She was very well-loved. She was so vibrant, so alive,” said John Bell, her husband of almost 12 years.
“They had to add pages,” said her mother, Audrey Coffelt of Hagerstown.
Kelly’s fifth-floor room at Meritus Medical Center always was filled with visitors. Audrey and John both have big families and many nieces, nephews and family friends who kept vigil, including friends of the Bells’ children.
“That hospital room was so full all the time. ... The hospital said they’ve never seen so many visitors,” Audrey said. “I just get a lot of comfort out of all the people. She was a people person.”
Kelly was born and raised in the South End of Hagerstown, the youngest of Jack and Audrey Coffelt’s two daughters. She graduated from South Hagerstown High School in 1983 and attended the Washington County Career Studies Center for dental assisting.
Kelly’s zest for life didn’t include school, though, her mother said.
“She hated school, from the very beginning until she graduated. She just detested it,” Audrey said.
Since Kelly didn’t like school and most likely wouldn’t be going to college, Audrey suggested Kelly find a career she could be trained for at the Career Studies Center. Kelly wanted to be a hairdresser, but by the time she made her decision, the program was full.
Audrey suggested the dental assisting program, and Kelly signed up. Since it was Audrey’s suggestion, she became the scapegoat every time Kelly didn’t pass the state boards, she said with a laugh.
It took four tries, but Kelly finally passed.
“She fell in love with it,” said her father, Jack Coffelt.
During the course of her career, she worked for practices in Hagerstown, Waynesboro, Pa., and Mercersburg, Pa., as well as at one of the prisons and working with AIDS patients.
“She was way more than a dental assistant,” John said.
Kelly worked up until the last two weeks of her life. When she was taken to the hospital for the last time, she said she needed to call Family Dentistry to tell them she wouldn’t be at work.
Work provided a welcome diversion from her medical issues. It also was a good fit since she loved being around people.
Kelly was known for sitting on the porch of the Bells’ Forest Avenue home, and people would stop by to chat or passing drivers would wave and honk, John said.
“She was always on the go, thinking of something to do,” Audrey said. “She just needed to have something going on.”