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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Jim Kelsey of Great Meadows to be Inducted into the Warren County Hall of Fame

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP, N.J. – James “Jim” Kelsey of Great Meadows will be inducted into the Warren County Hall of Fame next month.

The annual Hall of Fame event, presented by the Warren County Community College Foundation, will take place at Hawk Pointe Golf Club in Washington Township on Saturday, November 11th.

Kelsey is a hometown hero. A graduate of Central School in Independence Township and Blair Academy (class of 1965), Kelsey is now owner and president of Partac Peat Corporation in Great Meadows, one of the largest suppliers of infield and outfield clay for major league baseball. During summers off from high school and college, Jim worked as a free-lance photographer, a reporter for the Dover “Daily Advance,” house manager at the Gristmill Theater (then an equity summer stock theater in Andover) and as a disc jockey on WDHA-FM, which had a Broadway and Sinatra format. Upon graduation, rather than entering law school, he decided to enter the family business of selling peat to growers and landscapers.

In 1972, one of Kelsey’s first ventures was Kelsey Park Springs, a bottled spring water brand. But he couldn’t get chain store shelf space against the big brands and had to discontinue. In 1974, he started Kelsey Park Sod Farms and was the grower for 30 years until the Highlands Act made it impractical to continue. In 1978, Kelsey developed a heat-treated top-dressing for golf course greens and became the leading supplier in the greater New York area.

In 1980, he started Kelsey Park Aggregates, a supplier of sand and gravel products. In 1984, Kelsey’s fame took a life of its own outside of the area when he was able to purchase Beam Clay which was a company that sold baseball clay to six major and minor league stadiums. At that time, Partac was still a regional business. Beam Clay gave Kelsey a product and brand he could promote nationwide. 

“People thought I was crazy trying to sell clay across the country,” said Kelsey. “Why would they buy clay from New Jersey? The superintendent at Anaheim stadium practically threw me out but the next year called me for a quote.”

The fall of 1986, Jim and his wife of 45 years, Bonnie, had an exhibit at the Baseball Winter Meetings. A reporter from CNN did a segment on them and AP sent a photo across the country. Things went on from there.

Over the years, the product line has expanded to over 10,000 products for all sports including baseball, softball, tennis, bocce, horseshoes, cricket, football, soccer and volleyball.

Kelsey credits his success to “God providing opportunities, my own willingness to risk failing and my perseverance to see it through.” He also appreciates Bonnie’s support for believing in him. 

Locally, Kelsey has served on the board of directors at First Hope Bank and has served on various Independence Township committees, including the land use board for many years. 

The Hall of Fame event is open to the public and includes musical entertainment by the 3 Lelicas. For advance information on sponsorships or tickets, visit https://conta.cc/3EZmiMe or email samir@warren.edu.