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DeWitt: Dessie's longtime dream

Born in South Carolina and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., Carolyn "Dessie" Kelly arrived in Syracuse in 1968.

Having sung gospel solos at the Surprise Baptist Church in South Carolina, Kelly had built a solid foundation for singing the blues. In Syracuse, she performed with guitarist Roosevelt Dean and the Soul Doctors for three short years.

Then her life's journey drew her away from music.

In 1999 she began work as a certified nursing assistant at Loretto's Heritage Apartments which specialize in caring for older adults with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. Kelly is lovingly known by residents and staff alike as "Dessie" -- her childhood nickname.

'Excited to be back'

In 2006, three and a half decades after leaving Dean's band, Kelly returned to the studio where she performed three tracks on his CD, "Don't Leave Me." The session work led to live performances at places such as Meacham Park, Party in the Plaza and the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

"I was scared and nervous, but excited to be back on stage," Kelly recalled. "I felt like I was out of the scene for too long, but the pleased response from the crowd gave me back my confidence."

Dessie has long dreamed of sharing her talent with the residents, families and staff at Loretto's Heritage Apartments.

On Monday, Aug. 18, Dessie's dream will come true. That day she and the Roosevelt Dean Band will team up for a private performance to benefit construction of an employee lounge for her co-workers at the Courtyard of the Heritage Apartments, 750 E. Brighton Ave., in Syracuse, on Loretto's main campus. Tickets for this concert for Loretto residents, families and staff cost $10 each and are available at the Heritage Apartments at 492-1329 and other Loretto locations.

Kelly's vocal gift first came to Loretto's attention in May when she sang for the facility's Older Americans Month celebration in the Heritage Apartments chapel.

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