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Singer from Rio Rancho led a full life

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Kelly Garrett remembered by her sister for her beautiful voice and life-long friendships

Kelly Garrett of Rio Rancho brought a lot of light into the world and led a very full life.

That’s according to her sister, Martha “Marty” Boulton of Albuqerque.  Garrett, who died from complications related to throat and lung cancer on Aug. 7 at age 69, sang on Broadway, was featured on records and performed on television.

“She was the life of the party,” Boulton said. “She just did a lot of things, lot of happy things. She was full of energy. … I loved being around her.”

This photo of vocalist Kelly Garrett was used on one of her albums, according to Garrett’s sister, Martha “Marty” Boulton.

This photo of vocalist Kelly Garrett was used on one of her albums, according to Garrett’s sister, Martha “Marty” Boulton.

Garrett was also well-received in Hollywood. In the ’60s and ’70s, she regularly appeared on variety shows, musicals and other TV spots, including performances at the Academy Awards and Tony Awards shows, “Musical Chairs,” “The Dean Martin Comedy Hour,” “Playboy After Dark,” “Shivaree” and “Shindig!” She was also a guest on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” 29 times.

Apparently that’s only a small part of the story, though. Going through Garrett’s things, Boulton said she uncovered more than a few treasures and found lots of surprises, including posters advertising Garrett performing with Bob Hope and pictures of her with Charlton Heston and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who starred in “77 Sunset Strip” and “The F.B.I.”

“They used to play tennis together,” Boulton said. “It’s just crazy to see. It’s unbelievable.”

Garrett, who had eight sisters and one brother, was born Ellen Boulton. She later changed her name to Kelly Garrett at the suggestion of “whoever her agent was,” according to her sister.

“It was no big decision. She just did it,” she said.

Garrett was born to Jack Boulton and Sabina Griego on July 25, 1944, in Chester, Pa. They moved to New Mexico in 1946 and Garrett was raised in Santa Fe.

According to her obituary, she loved Pecos, “where she and her siblings spent many weekends at her grandparents’ home on the Pecos River.”

That’s where Garrett’s ashes were scattered, according to her sister, who is eight years younger.

“When we were kids, we were always there,” she said. We climbed the hill across the street, we went fishing.

My grandfather used to have pet foxes. We aggravated them. When she was small, we went there almost every weekend.”

Garrett attended the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. She moved to California at age  17, where she changed her name and worked as a bank teller by day and nightclub singer in the evenings.

That was when her singing career was launched. She spent many years in California and in New York, where she performed in quite a few Broadway musicals. Kelly won a Theatre World Award for her musical performance in “Mother Earth” (1972) and was nominated for Drama Desk and Tony awards for “The Night that Made America Famous” (1975). She sang one of the Oscar-nominated songs (“Richard’s Window”) at the 1976 Academy Awards ceremony.

“She was a go-getter, that’s for sure,” Boulton said.

Garrett also recorded the songs “Baby It Hurts,” “Tommy Makes Girls Cry,” “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” “Love’s The Only Answer,” “Nothing Left to Give,” “You Step Into My World” and “As Far as We Can Go.”

Boulton said she misses sister terribly. They used to play cards and Scrabble and remained lifelong friends with someone Garrett had met in grade school friend, Pita Benavidez.

“They were like an old married couple. They were really cute together,” Boulton said. “(Garrett) just died way too young. She sure had a full life. … She was full of energy.”

Those who knew her are invited to go to Garrett’s online guestbook at
Daniels Family Funeral Services is at 4310 Sara Road SE (892-9920).