James Clifford Kelly, age 100, passed away Dec 1, 2021, in Merrifield, Minnesota. He was born on November 28, 1921 and lived most of his life in Minneapolis, MN.
When elected president of his senior class at Central High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1939, the school newspaper described Jim as, “A husky fellow of six feet and a football player of no mean ability.” His senior yearbook quoted him as saying, “I’d like to be bashful, but the girls won’t let me.” Jim went on to play football at the University of Notre Dame but left college during his junior year to become a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps. He excelled at flying, as he did at all things athletic, qualifying in both the single engine P-39 and the twin-engine P-38 “Lightning.” The week before his squadron was due to ship out for the China-Burma Theater, Jim was hospitalized with a severe case of poison oak. His squadron left without him. Jim recovered but never saw combat duty. Instead, the Fourth Air Force drafted him to play exhibition football for the remainder of the war. Neither fame nor fortune interested Jim. Family and friends took center stage. When he returned to Minneapolis after Military service, he was married with two children, and over the years, that number would grow to nine. Throughout his life, he worked as a skilled craftsman who could build anything from a house to a go-kart. He particularly liked to fabricate things out of metal. Making contraptions for his children – unicycles, skateboards, pogo sticks, stilts, surf boards, swings, monkey-bars, tall bikes, teeter-totters, go-karts, playhouses, barbells, and wagons – gave him great joy. For several years, he even turned the front yard into an ice rink for the neighborhood. When asked what his greatest accomplishment was, he would say, without hesitation, “raising nine healthy, happy children.”
He acquired his affection for fishing as a boy spending summers on Lake Minnetonka and, like a true Minnesotan, passed his avocation on to his children and grandchildren. He lived most of his life in the Minneapolis area but spent his last 40 years on the water on Mission Lake near Brainerd, MN.
Jim Kelly was married to Betty Allison (Eide) Kelly, who died July 18, 2007, for 65 years. They had nine children: Cathy (Pat) Branch, John Kelly, Linda (Steve) Sather, Joe (Sue) Kelly, Tom (Mary Jo) Kelly, Jennifer (Greg Berger) Kelly, Peter Kelly, Mary (Greg) Plasencia, and Michele (Rick) Erickson; 18 grandchildren; and 26 great-grandchildren. Tragically, his son Tom died of sudden cardiac arrest on Nov 29, 2021 just two days before his father’s death.
His parents were John Clifford and Clara Regina (Dahlman) Kelly. He had one brother and two sisters. His brother Mike Kelly lives in Tomah, WI. His sister Patricia McGrade died in 1983. His sister Loretta Gavin lived to be 100 years old and died in 2021.
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Emily’s Catholic Church in Emily, MN on Friday, December 3 at 12pm with visitation beginning one hour prior. Burial will immediately follow at Mission Township Cemetery.
Memorials preferred to Heartland Hospice Care, Baxter, MN.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Brenny Family Funeral Chapel, Baxter.