Eulogy for Tom Kelly
Before we close our service, I’d like to say a few words. I won’t—and probably can’t—speak long this morning, but I’ll do my best to offer a fitting farewell to my brother.
Tom grew up in a very small Minnesota town in a very close, loving family. Tom was the oldest of three children, and I am the youngest. We were six years apart, with our sister Ann three years between us. We had great respect for each other as kids and into our adult lives.
Amazing though it sounds, I don’t remember an unkind word from any of us about the others. Tom and I were inseparable, which was unusual considering our age difference. We always shared a room at home, but that we never fought, never bickered.
For many years, Tom and I spent summers together working for our dad. We enjoyed that, so we started looking for chances to travel together during our off times. Tom also really enjoyed going to sporting events and followed the local teams in all kinds of weather.
Tom was extremely bright and excelled at school. Not surprisingly, he was his class valedictorian. Tom was a devoted and successful teacher for ten years in a small Minnesota town, but he was quite reserved and lacked confidence.
The turning point of his life was when he met Patricia in a summer institute in Utah. We were so happy to see Tom start a new chapter in his life with Pat at his side.
Anyone who knew Tom saw that he was a family man through and through. He was an adoring husband to Patricia; a loving and devoted father to Caren, Ann, and Tracie; and in these last eight years, a doting grandfather to Griffin, who brought such joy to him and Pat.
He was also a kind and caring brother to me, and to my sister, Ann, who along with my parents, has welcomed Tom to his home in heaven after his long battle with cancer.
Tom never liked to sit still. It seemed like he was always on the go. As you probably know, he and Pat loved to travel and go camping. Over the years they wore out two tent trailers, and after many cross-country treks, they had put plenty of wear and tear on their second motor home.
My wife Gerelyn and I joined them on many vacations over the years, and we’ll always cherish our memories of hot summer days spent exploring Colorado, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Oregon, Washington, and Montana.We enjoyed many cool, summer nights in the mountains playing Trivial Pursuit by the fire. Tom was a master at the game—even though he often appeared to be sleeping in his lawn chair, he always knew the answers.
In recent years the four of us spent many good times in Branson Missouri. In 1996 we both purchased plots of land in Arkansas. Our plans were to live close together in our retirement.
Since retiring, Tom and Pat really hit the road, returning home just long enough to recharge their batteries by seeing their daughters and Griffin before heading out again. Tom started out his career as a math teacher, and he finished it that way, too.
For many years, though, he worked in real estate, riding the rollercoaster of the Orange County housing market. With impeccable timing, Tom decided to go back to teaching just as the huge real estate boom hit in the 1990s.
Even though dealing with high school students sometimes made the nastiest mortgage closing seem fun by comparison, teaching was dear to his heart, and it made us all happy to know he was back in the classroom where he belonged, and where he had so much to offer.
Caren, Ann, and Tracie knew Tom as a teacher, too. When the girls were in school, they (and even their friends!) could count on him to help them with their homework. Caren recalls that the only time he didn’t enjoy helping was when a book report was due, because he always felt obligated to read the book himself so he could offer the best help. Even when the girls were in college and there was a paper to be written, Tom might be heard to ask “Oh no—NOW what do I have to read?”
When Tom was still in his wild math teacher bachelor days, working in a small town Minnesota high school, he used to visit my sister Ann’s family on the weekends for a home cooked meal and the comfort of family. His nephew Sean (whom Tom always called “SEEN” and who is here today), recalls that Tom wasn’t used to being around kids back then. Even helping a five-year-old put on his socks was a bit flustering to bachelor Tom. Three daughters and a grandson later, parenting was old hat.
We will all miss Tom, and we know you will, too. He brought joy to our lives, and sad though we are today, we’ll always have that joy inside us.