Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown’s sister, Cynthia Kelly, dead at 81

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, far right, meets with, from left, Cynthia Kelly, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown and Kathleen Brown at the 2010 California Hall of Fame ceremony in Sacramento.
Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, far right, meets with, from left, Cynthia Kelly, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown and Kathleen Brown at the 2010 California Hall of Fame ceremony in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee

Cynthia Kelly, a schoolteacher, homemaker and sister of Gov. Jerry Brown, died Sunday, her family said.

She was 81.

Kathleen Brown, a former state treasurer, said her sister had been ill since last fall and likely died of heart failure.

Kelly, of San Francisco, was the second-oldest daughter of the late Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown. She graduated from then-San Jose State College and married her high school sweetheart, San Francisco lawyer Joseph Ignatius Kelly, Kathleen Brown said.

Cynthia Kelly taught elementary school in San Francisco before leaving the profession to raise her five children, among them Kathleen Kelly, a Superior Court judge in San Francisco.

“She was the ultimate mother, housewife, consumed with raising her family,” Kathleen Brown said.

In 2013, Jerry Brown declared his sister’s birthday that year to be “Cynthia Kelly Day.”

His proclamation referred to her “penchant for art and culture,” but also to her “unusual prowess on the tennis courts and in the pools, rivers and oceans of California, frequently swimming in her beautiful Belvedere Lagoon.”

Brown said in a prepared statement Monday that his sister “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.”

Though less active politically than her brother or sister Kathleen, Kelly appeared at many of the governor’s public events – both in recent years and when he was younger.

Cynthia Kelly and her daughter Kathleen appeared on “Good Morning America” for Brown during his 1992 campaign for president, and Kathleen Brown said her sister took her children and grandchildren campaigning for Brown in New Hampshire.

“She had an open, generous spirit, was curious about everyone and everything,” Kathleen Brown said.

A funeral Mass is expected to be said next week in San Francisco.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 2:35 p.m. and 4:05 p.m. Monday to include additional information throughout.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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