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Ma and Pa Teapot 2023

For Ray and Joanie Kelly, the community of Tea has meant the world to them.

The couple, who has been married for 40 years, said the community has been nothing but welcoming since they moved to town in 1996. Now they have been named Ma & Pa Teapot for Teapot Days.

“It was a surprise. We’ve never been nominated for anything. We’ve always just been around Tea and helped Tea with everything we could financially through my artwork and stuff,” Ray Kelly said. “It was a pleasant honor.”

Ray grew up in Sioux Falls and has been a full-time artist for about 25 years. Joanie grew up in Canova and was a nurse for 45 years. The two met when Ray asked Joanie to dance at Night City Disco in Sioux Falls.

Ray started drawing out of boredom and started making signage for his school. He worked painting signs for a couple of years. Joanie saw he had talent and encouraged him to pursue art for a living.

“She had a great job as a nurse and we could afford to take two years off was the plan and learn how to market myself. If I could make a living in two years, I could become self-employed,” he said. “I never had to look back. If it wasn’t for her, I would have never probably tried it and I would have been like half the people with talent in this would I would’ve died with it.”

In 1983, he was invited to Yankton to go pheasant hunting and met Irlene Mandrell of the Mandrell Sisters. She invited him to sell his artwork and raise money for her charities. She helped him get his art career going.

While Ray works in prisms color wax pencils or graphite, he has done a mural in Trinity Lutheran Church.

“I don’t paint. I learned to take the pencils and make them like paint and people say that it’s paint. I’ve learned how to blend them,” he said.

He is part Native American and likes to draw Native American, Western and wildlife.

Around Tea, Ray had his artwork displayed in the Tea Steakhouse for years where they changed it out constantly. He also worked on designing the Veteran’s Memorial.

When Joanie graduated high school, she needed a job so she moved to Mitchell and became a nurse’s aide. Her patients she took care of told her she should become a nurse because she was good with people. She got her degree in Mitchell and became an advanced LPN.

Joanie worked at Sioux Valley Hospital, then nursing homes for Good Samaritan. Her last nursing job was as an industrial nurse at Smithfield.

Today, Joanie has retired from nursing. Ray has a brain tumor that has mostly retired him from making more art.

They are enjoying their daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who all live in the Tea and Sioux Falls area.

They are also members of Tea Trinity Lutheran Church. Ray has done a lot of artwork for charities and fundraisers around town and with the church.

“I feel really thankful for the city of Tea for asking me to donate. It’s a big honor,” Ray said.


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