Mavis Parrott Kelsey, Sr., M.D.

October 7, 1912November 12, 2013

Mavis Parrott Kelsey, Sr., M.D. was born 7 October 1912 and died peacefully and surrounded by his family at home on Tuesday, 12 November 2013. Mavis was a devoted family man, physician, World War II veteran, collector of art and Americana, writer, editor, publisher, rancher, genealogist, and philanthropist. He was a keen observer, a critical thinker, a visionary leader, and a life long scholar. He grew up in Deport, Texas, where he developed his insatiable curiosity and a creative mind. Mavis was inspired to seek a career in medicine by his grandfather, Dr. Joseph Benson Kelsey, who brought him along on house calls in a horse drawn buggy. Mavis graduated from Texas A&M and the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston. After an internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York, he returned to the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston as an Instructor in Pathology.

The following year he became a junior staff member at the Scott and White Clinic. There he met the love of his life, Mary Randolph Wilson, of Beaumont. To Mavis, Mary was a lovely Southern girl with a refined intellect and polished social graces. She had degrees from Vassar and George Washington, had lived and studied in Paris, and had worked in Manhattan. She read in Italian and Spanish. She was fluent in French, and she had not forgotten her Latin. On average she read several books a week, and like Mavis, she remembered almost everything she read. Also like Mavis, Mary found it easy to speak her mind.

After an elegant wedding in Beaumont, Mavis took his bride off to Rochester, Minnesota, and took a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic. During World War II, he served as Flight Surgeon of the XI Air Corps Fighter Command in Alaska, and later, while at the Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, as Editor-in-Chief of the Air Surgeon’s Bulletin, the medical journal of the U.S. Air Force. He attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Legion of Merit. After the War, he finished his fellowship and became a staff member of the Mayo Clinic. He also earned a master’s degree in medicine from the University of Minnesota. In 1949, he brought his family, which by then included four sons, back to Texas and within two years started what became the Kelsey Seybold Clinic. Among his early partners were Drs. Bill Seybold, Bill Leary, his brother John R. Kelsey, Earl Beard, Alfred Leiser and Jim Kemper. He led the clinic in the development of branch clinics, prepaid medical care, and occupational medicine. He initiated and directed the Clinic’s relationship with NASA, which led to other larger scale patient groups. He pioneered nuclear medicine, the use of paramedical personnel and electronic patient records. He performed early research on the clinical use of radioisotopes, and he published some fifty medical articles. He especially enjoyed his affiliation with St. Luke’s Hospital. Mavis loved his practice as a personal family doctor, and he was renowned as an endocrinologist. He founded the Kelsey Research Foundation which has been supported by many grateful patients and collaborating hospitals, and which has made several important contributions to medical research in the Medical Center.

Mavis was a retired Professor of Medicine at the University of Texas where he was once Dean of the School of Post Graduate Medicine. He served on the staff of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital where a lectureship in the Section of Endocrinology is named in his honor. He was an Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Baylor Medical College. He enjoyed membership in the Alpha Omega Alpha and Sigma XI honor societies. He was a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a Board Certified Internist, a Certified Flight Surgeon and an FAA Examiner. He was a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Apart from the practice of medicine and into his nineties, Mavis actively supported the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston where he served on the Executive Committee and the Prints Committee, the Texas A&M University Press, the Texas A&M University Health Science Center, the Texas A&M University Institute of Biology and Technology, and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He was a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas, the Sons of the American Revolution, and charter member of the American Historical Print Collectors Society. He was an active member of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.

When Mavis became interested in a subject he usually became an expert and sometimes wrote a book about it. He liked Winslow Homer’s woodcuts and collected almost all of them. After completing the collection he gave it to the MFAH and with Mary as his co-author, he wrote Winslow Homer Graphics. He later gave most of the remainder of his collection, including some 20,000 books, prints and other art to Texas A&M. David Chapman, the Mavis & Mary Kelsey Professor and University Archivist at Texas A&M has written, “The Kelsey collection is broad and diverse, almost defying description. The Kelsey collections are a living testament to the lives of two devoted and generous people. It is and always will be a treasure for the ages.” Mavis also helped with the restoration of the Cushing Library at Texas A&M where the main reading room is named in his and Mary’s honor.

Mavis wrote or co-authored Physiology of Flight; A Guide to the Courthouses of Texas; Engraved Prints of Texas; A Cookbook, by the Kelsey Family and Friends, his autobiography, Twentieth Century Doctor, and Texas Sayings and Folklore, which was published on his 100th birthday. Mary and Mavis were fifth generation Texans and co-authored seven genealogy books. They spent many hours in the Clayton Genealogy Library where the Dr. Mavis Kelsey Acquisition Fund is named in his honor.

Mavis & Mary loved their ranch on the Katy Prairie and once owned a fine herd of Charolais crossbred cattle. They knew most of the cows and bulls by name, and they visited Charolais breeders in France. They could identify most of the native grasses and shrubs on the prairie and the plants in their gardens at home. Mary knew the Latin names, and Mavis knew the botanical classifications. The Kelseys were awarded the Zone Conservation Commendation by the Garden Club of America. Mavis and Mary loved to travel and visited most of the world’s great cities. Mary kept wonderful travel journals, which Mavis later incorporated into a book for the family.

Mavis kept up with current events and medical developments maintaining subscriptions to medical and scientific journals until his last days. He would annotate and underline clippings and pages from newspapers, magazines and books and mail copies to friends and family often with encouraging advice.

He was a delightful conversationalist. Even after becoming a centenarian he took a sincere and kindhearted interest in the activities of friends and family of all ages. His memory for past events, places he had visited, friends, and his vast store of knowledge was legendary. Mavis was imbued with an indefatigable joy for life. He recently joked in an interview that the secret to his longevity was drinking good whiskey. Not mentioned: his extraordinary determination, persistence and discipline; an unusually broad range of interests; and a profound sense of integrity and duty.

Mavis was predeceased by his wife, Mary; his parents, John Roger Kelsey, Sr. and Bonita Parrott Kelsey; his son, Cooke; his brother Dr. John R. Kelsey, Jr.; his sister Virginia and her husband Marvin Gibbs of Paris, Texas. He is survived by three sons and their families: John, and wife Gaye; Tom, and wife Ann; and Mavis Jr., and wife Wendy. Grandchildren: Kelly, and step grandson, Dan Weigel; William, and his wife, Laura; Margaret, and her husband, Dr. Greg Connor; Mavis III; Winifred, and her husband, Carleton Riser; and Cooke. Great Grandchildren: Wilson and Carter Kelsey; Patrick, Clara and Thomas Connor; Robert, Mac and Carleton Riser. Sisters-in-law: Mickey Kelsey and Callie Wilson. Nieces and nephews: John R. Kelsey III, Ann Naber, Robert Kelsey, Virginia Kelsey, Dr. Kelsey Gibbs, Nancy Scanlan, Jamie Griffith, Wilson Griffith, Mary Griffith Wallace, Richard Griffith, Cooke Wilson III, Margaret Wilson Reckling; numerous cousins; his assistants, Rebecca Ayers and Christina Hand; and devoted friends and caregivers, Mary Patino, Emelina Cruz, Federico Shotte, Jamarcus Wright and Jose Chavez.

Honorary Pallbearers are Earl Beard, Gervais Bell, Spencer Bertelson, Earl Brewer, Herbert DuPont, Donald Dyal, Alfred Glassell III, Tony Greisenger, Jim Kemper, Meredith Long, David Mouton, Michael Newmark, Mike Stude, and the doctors and staff of the Kelsey Seybold Clinic.

A memorial service will be held at three o’clock in the afternoon, Monday, the 18th of November, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston. There will be a reception after the service in the Parish Hall of the Church.

Memorials may be sent to The Kelsey Research Foundation, 5615 Kirby Dr., Ste. 660, Houston, TX, 77005; St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Rd., Houston, TX, 77056; or the charity of one’s choice.


  • Memorial Service Monday, November 18, 2013

Mavis Parrott Kelsey, Sr., M.D.

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March 1, 2014


Craig Chaloupka

November 20, 2013

God Bless you sir. It has been truly my privilage to have met you and crossed paths in our journey.
Bless your Family and the chair that sits empty this coming Holiday. Knowing full well the memories will be there still.


November 20, 2013

I offer my condolences and prayers to the family, and friends of Dr. Kelsey. Dr. Kelsey has left us with such a wonderful and amazing legacy, he will never be forgotten.

November 20, 2013

Ginger Rotan Youngren

Amy Casey

November 19, 2013

What a treasure. Because of this great man I have been provided with wonderful healthcare for myself and my three boys. My pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold is such a delight that I drive from College Station to Houston for appointments because my oldest loves him. My OBGYN saved my youngest twin's life in April and had it not been for Mr. Kelsey, I may have never had such wonderful doctors. His legacy will live on in the lives of many. Although I may never know a member of this family, I hope they find comfort in that their precious family member has touched the lives of so many by seeing through his life's passions. God speed Mr. Kelsey and may the Lord comfort your family during this time. Go dance with your beautiful bride once again.

Linda Jones Robinson

November 19, 2013

To John, Tom, and Mavis,
It seems like just yesterday that I spoke to your delightful dad about Texas courthouses. And then last week I saw his classic car cruising down San Felipe. The loss of one's father is monumental. But knowing that his spirit lives on in each one of you is of solace to us all.

Teri Whittington

November 18, 2013

Rest in peace.

Thelma Woodard

November 18, 2013

My condolences to the family and many friends of Dr. Mavis Kelsey. Always such a charming and approachable man. When I had the opportunity in 2009, to thank Dr. Kelsey for creating such a wonderful medical community to work at, he thanked me for my service. He has left a wonderful legacy not only in Houston, but the world. Rest in Peace Dr. Kelsey.

Tammie Anderson

November 17, 2013

Dr. Marvis Kelsey, was an extraordinary , brilliant , innovator with a vision that was bigger than life it's self . Dr. M. Kelsey was a very remarkable person , I remembered when I joined, the Kelsey research foundation, I had an opportunity to meet him and had several beautiful conversations, together. Dr. Kelsey was a very common man, with greatness , poise and charisma, who would talk to employees , and treat people with respect and dignity no matter if you were a MD, Nurse, or housekeeper . He had a heart and great compassion for people , no matter your race, color or creed, he was very accepting of all people. I was so blessed , to have had wonderful , conversations with him, he was a man of many smiles and laughter , he loved life and saving lives through his world renown practice. He was a man that was born with a vision to heal and doctor to the sick in the greater Houston Area. Dr. Mavis Kelsey , will be truly missed in the medical arena as well as the community . My thoughts and prayers are with the Kelsey family, may the God of All comfort , console you doing this time. But rejoice, for the beautiful life and legacy , Dr. Mavis Kelsey , left here on this earth , his good deeds still lives on, and that is what this life's journey is all about , we all are passing through . Let your life equate to the greatness he has left for all men to see as a living example for us all ! Remember, we all are just passing through . May the peace of a loving God bring you great comfort at this time. Shalom

November 17, 2013

What an amazing life and legacy to Houston, the medical community and the Kelsey family.

We're thinking of you all!

The van Hoogstraten Family, NYC