Samantha Rae Kelly was just beginning to spread her wings in life when she died tragically in a single car accident coming home from her senior prom May 6, 2012.
Samantha's senior year in high school had been filled with so many wonderful things – she was the captain of the volleyball team that had an undefeated regular season, she was selected as the homecoming queen in the fall and to be on the prom court in the spring, she maintained a high grade point average and was on the honor roll, she was thriving in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she was having fun with her friends and she had been accepted into all the colleges that she applied to. She had worked hard to get to this point and she was enjoying every moment of her senior year. It was so clear that she had never been happier or more excited about life.
Life for Samantha started in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where she was born to Jonna and Keith Kelly on June 23, 1994. Jonna was a school teacher and Keith a park ranger and Samantha was the light of their life. Samantha was soon joined by her younger brother Jack and they started a life-long relationship as best friends. In the fall of 2000, Samantha, Jack and her mother returned to her mother's home of Williamsport, Maryland where they started a new life as a family of three. Samantha was an outgoing girl and during her elementary school years in Maryland she was involved in activities at First Christian Church including vacation bible school, church camps and congregational picnics and dinners. Samantha always enjoyed the activities where she could meet new people and spend time with her friends. She formed close relationships with her friends from First Christian Church and together they matured and developed values and morals grounded in their faith – it was a special bond that persevered through middle and high school years.
Samantha attended Williamsport Elementary School from 2000 to 2005. She did well in school and participated in school activities when possible, including gym shows and chorus concerts. She started friendships at Williamsport Elementary that would continue through high school with a group of girls that included Autumn Willingham, Summer Neff, Chelsea Myers, Renee Barnes and Casey Arnone. Samantha also watched over her little brother Jack during this time as she was two years ahead of him in school.
Samantha started to grow as an individual during her years at Springfield Middle School. Springfield Middle was where her love and passion for volleyball began. She played intramural and travel team volleyball in 6th, 7th and 8th grades. She loved the game and the competition, but also the time spent with friends on the team. It was during this time that Samantha went on family summer vacations to Rhode Island's Atlantic Coast, Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. By this time Samantha, Jack and Jonna had been joined by Brian Vinci who married her mother in 2004. Brian brought a dog into the family with him – Cooper – and Samantha could often be found playing with Cooper around her house.
Samantha was excited to attend Williamsport High School in the fall of 2008. She looked forward to the independence and social aspects of high school. She tried out and made the junior varsity volleyball team in the fall. She attended her first homecoming dance in the fall as well. In the spring Samantha played on the tennis team. Tennis was a new adventure for Samantha as she had never played before, other than hitting a ball back and forth with Jack for fun. Her athleticism showed on the tennis court and she did well playing first doubles with senior Katie Butts.
In her freshman year Samantha needed frequent reminders about homework and studying, but by her sophomore year she had learned to balance her friends, sports and school work. In her sophomore year she earned a spot on the varsity volleyball team and was selected for All-County 2nd team honors as an outside hitter at the end of the season. In the fall she attended homecoming dances at both Williamsport and Smithsburg High Schools with her boyfriend, Brad Spickler, a Smithsburg High student. During the winter of her sophomore year her volleyball coach, Emily Crabtree, convinced her to try indoor track, specifically the high jump, to improve her jumping ability. Although Samantha quickly realized that indoor track wasn't for her, her athleticism showed again and she lettered and won numerous events. In the spring she returned to play on the tennis team, that season in the first singles division.
During Samantha's junior year she grew tremendously as a person and as an athlete. Hagerstown's newspaper, The Herald-Mail, recognized her as a "Top Ten to Watch" coming into the 2010 volleyball season and she had an excellent year. Samantha earned All-Conference and All-County 1st team honors as an outside hitter from the Monocacy Valley Athletic League coaches and from The Herald-Mail. Although excited about her accomplishments on the volleyball court, she was equally excited about having been selected as the junior class homecoming princess. Her dad Keith escorted her at the homecoming football game and she attended the dance with her boyfriend Brad. Late in the fall of her junior year Samantha started to think about playing college volleyball and contacted many colleges expressing her interest. She was determined to continue playing volleyball in college and made invited recruiting trips to Boston College, Hood College, Saint Lawrence University and Frostburg State University.
In the spring of her junior year Samantha returned to the tennis court as the captain of the tennis team. She had an excellent season and made it to the county regional semi-finals in the first singles division. She earned All-Conference honorable mention honors in the first singles division for her efforts.
In the winter and spring of each year starting in 2008, Samantha played "club" volleyball. In 2008 and 2009 she played with the Synergy Volleyball Club, in 2010 she played with the Washington County Juniors Volleyball Club, and in 2011 and 2012 she played with Potomac Elite Volleyball Club. Samantha developed close friendships with both players and coaches during club volleyball. She enjoyed the competition and her friends, especially when they traveled to tournaments and stayed overnight in hotels together – four to a room!
Samantha started her senior year of high school with great anticipation – it was "my senior year" she would often say. Samantha was the captain of the volleyball team and led them to an undefeated regular season of 15-0. Along the way Williamsport defeated three eventual 2011 state champions, North High (3A), Century (2A), and Smithsburg (1A). But it was not Williamsport's year and they lost in the playoffs. Those watching that final game of Samantha's high school volleyball career could see the anguish in her face as the match was slipping away. But it didn't take long for Samantha to rebound and that was the thing about Samantha – her spirit was irrepressible. In 2011 Samantha earned All-Conference and All-County 1st team honors as an outside hitter from the Monocacy Valley Athletic League coaches and from The Herald-Mail. She finished fourth in The Herald-Mail's 2011 Volleyball Player of the Year voting.
Samantha was again selected as a homecoming princess in the fall of 2011 and she was as excited as ever. This time though she could be selected Homecoming Queen and she was! On the night of homecoming she attended the dance with her boyfriend Brad and danced the dad-daughter dance with her dad Keith.
Samantha started to make plans for college in late fall of 2011 and early in 2012. Although she wanted to continue to play volleyball in college, Samantha also truly enjoyed high school and her friends and was somewhat hesitant about college. She finally found a future home at Frostburg State University in the spring of 2012 and was looking forward to everything that college offered. She visited the FSU campus, met the volleyball coach and her future teammates and was excited about starting that part of her life in the fall of 2012.
All throughout her life Samantha cherished and enjoyed her family. She loved family gatherings at holidays, birthdays and any special event and would stay to talk and share until the lights were turned out. At home she would even stay at the dinner table after dinner was finished to talk about what was going on in her life – even when she was a teenager. She shared her life generously with those around her and we are all grateful for the time we had with her. There is no question Samantha left us too early, but we can find solace in her own words from an essay she wrote senior year:
"People might die, but no one ever truly dies. They're still talked about, thought about and dreamed about. They may not physically be with us, but they lie inside of us as memories and thoughts."
— Samantha Kelly