Our Hometown Stories: "Sweet Lord"
“Bayne, if that’s how you are going to run, then go to the beach and run with your grandmother!” Twenty-seven years ago those were the words that haunted my dreams.
My maiden name was Bayne and I was a Reserve Recruit in the Los Angeles Police Academy, Class 10-82R. I was 19 years old, certainly not “fleet of foot” and my training Sergeant was having none of it. “Sweet Lord”, he must have been thinking as I was pulling up the rear as usual. My frustrated Sergeant with the dry wit and intimidating stare, then, was none other than Bob Kellar; now esteemed Santa Clarita City Council member, past Mayor and local Real Estate Tycoon.
I am delighted to bring you briefly into the life of my friend, a man who lives and embodies the motto that was painted on the police car that he drove for 25 years: “To Protect and to Serve.”
Robert Charles Kellar grew up at 5642 Klump Street in North Hollywood, California. He lived with his parents and brother, Bill, in a home that was built in the 1800’s. Sadly, as with many historic buildings in Los Angeles and with the onset of “progress”, the home was torn down and a 4-plex stands in its place. Klump Street was his home for nine years before the family moved to Panorama City. More about Klump Street later.
In the late 1940’s and early 50’s Bob and his father would drive out to what was considered “the wild frontier.” We know it as the Santa Clarita Valley. There was no Interstate 5. It was considered a ridge route, and Soledad Canyon Road was the only access between the San Fernando Valley and Acton. Bob recalls driving along Soledad Canyon until “we spotted the sign to our destination: The Juniper Rifle Range. My dad and I spent many afternoons out there shooting at targets.” If you are a resident of the Pinteree/Flowerpark tract of homes in Canyon Country, don’t be alarmed if you dig up spent bullet shells. That is exactly where the Juniper Rifle Range stood!
It was on those road trips with his dad, listening to the song “Mack the Knife” on the radio, that Bob began his love affair, respect and appreciation for the great outdoors. Bob shared with me that he was so enthralled with the open spaces of the SCV that “I used to bring my high school girlfriend Caroline out to Placerita Canyon for evening strolls and shooting practice.” Lucky girl. Those evenings and the beauty of Santa Clarita were never far from his mind when in 1979 he purchased the home on Ravenhill in Canyon Country where he still lives today.
In 1965, the United States was embroiled in the Vietnam War and Bob went to the local recruiting office to enlist. To make a long story short, he was eventually drafted. In a strange turn of events, the Army announced that it would allow new recruits to train for the airborne division. Bob Kellar, newly drafted and with visions of Green Berets dancing in his head, knew this was the path for him. His first-ever plane trip took him to basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Once those eight weeks were completed, the Army again made a startling announcement: Airborne recruits could train as “Special Forces’ (Green Berets). “I couldn’t believe it,” Bob said. Eleven recruits signed up and only three passed. Bob Kellar completed his specialized training and was now a member of the Army’s “D Company, 7th Special Forces”. He wore that well-earned Green Beret with pride and integrity.
With only a year left in the military, Bob had already decided to “re-up”, making the military his career. Those best laid plans changed abruptly when he received a letter from his mother. That letter contained an article about a high school friend named Roger Warren. Roger had joined the Los Angeles Police Department and three weeks out of the academy had been shot and killed while on duty in Van Nuys. Roger and Bob had not been close friends.
“This article stuck with me,” Bob said, “and I began obsessing about a career in law enforcement, specifically a career with the Los Angeles Police Department.”
With his service in the United States Army completed, Bob headed home. The 1968 quasi-military style of the LAPD’s Academy was kids play for Bob who thrived in that environment. He graduated in five months and was rewarded with his “Policeman” badge. He wore that badge until he was promoted to Sergeant in 1975.
Now back to Klump Street. While working patrol in the North Hollywood Division, Bob received a call about a lost boy. He remembered the day with me.
“When I arrived at the gas station I saw a little guy about four years old. When I asked him if he knew his address he loudly stated ‘5642 Klump Street’. Yes sir, I know exactly where your house is,” Bob told him.
Officer Kellar reunited the lost boy with his mom and enjoyed sharing with her the Klump Street coincidence.
There are many infamous crimes that have become tales of lore. On May 17, 1974, “The SLA Shootout” was one of those. The SLA was a small domestic terrorist group that had kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and was also responsible for a deadly bank robbery. The LAPD’s elite SWAT team surrounded a safe house where suspected SLA members were hiding. The resulting shootout left 6 SLA members dead and, during the melee, the safe house was set ablaze.
Well, in 1974, Bob Kellar was a member of that SWAT team. When he got the call to “roll” on the SLA incident he jumped in his personal car and picked up his partner, also named Bob. Kellar quickly checked with Bob to make sure he had the SWAT car keys as they frantically drove to pick up their on-duty vehicle. “Yes, I have them,” Bob called out. When they arrived at their SWAT car, it became clear that partner Bob had brought his house keys…not the car keys! Needless to say, by the time the “Bobs” finally arrived on scene the safe house fire was burning. Bob grinned as he said, “I gave my partner hell on that one. The biggest shootout since the OK Corral and you forgot the keys.” Sweet Lord.
Known as a no-nonsense leader, Bob was recruited by Internal Affairs in 1981. Sgt. Kellar was part of an investigative team that cleared 115 burglaries committed by 12 corrupt on-duty police officers in the Hollywood Division. Bob Kellar had zero-tolerance for any officer that would tarnish the badge and reputation of the Los Angeles Police Department.
With 14 years under his belt, Sgt. Bob Kellar was put in charge of the Reserve Recruit program at the Academy.
“I loved that position and held it until the day I retired.” Bob added, “My admiration for people that would volunteer to come into a difficult and demanding program to serve the citizens of Los Angeles spoke volumes about those people.”
There was no halfway with him. Sgt. Kellar’s intention was to “turn out the best Reserve police officers I could.” On my graduation day, when Sgt. Kellar pinned that badge on my dress blues, I knew that I had earned it. His retirement from the department in 1993 left some pretty big gumshoes to fill!
When one door closes, another opens. In this case it was the door to our City Hall.
Bob’s venture into the uncharted waters of City Government came about quite by accident. In 1986, it started with co-chairing the rodeo at the old Frontier Days. It picked up a little speed with his involvement in the Santa Clarita Chamber and culminated in 1999 with his election to the Santa Clarita City Council. He has held the post of Mayor twice and will finish out his City Council term in 2012.
Never say never, but as of now, Bob Kellar has no aspirations to a higher office. Kellar-Davis, his real estate firm, keeps him extremely busy, as do the links at the local golf course where he is a “terrible golfer but loves the game.”
After so many years of tirelessly serving this community he is ready to write yet another chapter in his story. The role of husband will be his in June when he marries his long time girlfriend, the gorgeous Kathy Keysor. They don’t come finer. He is a lucky man.
The soul of this valley shines brightly due to the generous spirit of Bob Kellar.
That generosity was never more evident than when he allowed our family to adopt his wonderful yellow lab, Sarge. Sarge used to escape from Ravenhill, patrol the wash and show up in our neighborhood. He would saunter down our driveway with a tennis ball, which my kids would spend all day throwing to him. My husband Ron expressed to Bob how much we enjoyed having Sarge visit and jokingly indicated “if he ever wanted to give him a new home, we would be thrilled.” Bob Kellar was Santa Claus on the morning that Sarge officially arrived. That sweet dog was a beloved member of our family for 7 years. Bob Kellar is still my children’s hero.
May is a beautiful month in Santa Clarita. Spring is in the air and all is well at the Kellar Ranch. You can be sure that Bob and Kathy are dressing for a fundraiser, planning a wedding and just enjoying each other’s company.
Sweet Lord, Bob’s favorite expression, life is good.