Kelly was born in 1925 in Aurora, Illinois during the Great Depression. As one of seven children, he said growing up he never realized they were poor. His family had a large garden and he recalls fond memories of rabbit hunting and fishing in the Fox River with his father. Toward the end of the Depression, Kelly vowed to serve his country after the horrific events of Pearl Harbor. At 17 years old and a senior in high school, his father encouraged him to graduate before enlisting. Keeping his word, he graduated before joining the Navy in July 1943.
Kelly was assigned to the 53rd Naval Construction Battalion attached to the Third Marine Division. He was deployed to several places, including: New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Guam. His battalion took care of wounded, unloaded ships, removed unexploded ammunition and created roads for transportation so troops could get to the frontlines.
After his service, Kelly attended Oregon State and Linn Benton Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in Fire Science. He then joined the Corvallis Volunteer Fire Department and was later hired by the local Fire Department, where he worked his way up to Captain of Suppression and Fire Prevention. He later became the Assistant Chief Fire Marshall at the Oak Lodge Fire District, where he eventually retired.
Now at 95 years old, Kelly has overcome yet another incredible challenge. On March 17, he tested positive for the novel Coronavirus, Covid-19. Living with his family, including two young great grandchildren, Kelly had to remain quarantined to his room for two weeks. His granddaughter, Rose Etherington, was able to care for him. “There were a couple of days where he looked extremely ashen and I could tell he was slipping. He didn’t want to eat, so we had to really stay on top of him to eat and drink. I think he pulled through because he has a strong mind. He knew it wasn’t time. He wanted to be with the kids more.”
To everyone going through this difficult time, Kelly does have some advice.
“This too will pass, and maybe we’ll be better off. Do what you’re supposed to do. Just be a good, solid American. There’s a saying that I remember a friend used to say all the time: Fighters never quit, and quitters never fight. Just carry on.”
NFM Salute is an initiative in which one military member or Veteran is chosen each month to be honored as the “Salute of the Month.” Salutes are chosen from nominations on the NFM Salute website, www.nfmsalute.com. The “Salute of the Month” will be featured on the website with a biography and information about his or her service, and NFM Lending will donate to a military or Veteran non-profit in the Salute’s name.
NFM Lending is proud to donate $2,500 to The Gary Sinise Foundation on behalf of Kelly and his family. NFM looks forward to the opportunity to continue to honor military and Veterans through the NFM Salute initiative.
About NFM Lending
NFM Lending is a mortgage lending company currently licensed in 41 states in the U.S. The company was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1998. NFM Lending and its family of companies includes Main Street Home Loans, Bluprint Home Loans, and Freedmont Mortgage Group. They attribute their success in the mortgage industry to their steadfast commitment to customers and the community. NFM Lending has firmly planted itself in the home loan marketplace as “America’s Common Sense Residential Mortgage Lender.™” For more information about NFM Lending, visit www.nfmlending.com, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Instagram.