Robert Francis (Bob) Kelly
November 20, 1936 – April 12, 2020
Our dad left us in peace on Easter Sunday morning April 12, 2020 in his own home with his family around him, just exactly the way he wanted to go. As always, he did it his way. If we didn’t know better, we’d say he planned it that way. It was the same with his obituary. He penned the following lines, and they are his own words. He died of natural causes. He was 83.
Several years ago, a friend of mine by the name of Larry Hunt was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died within a year. During that year, he must have decided to write his own obituary so that those that remained would not be burdened with one more thing to do after he was gone. I talked to his wife Sue after he died and got the feeling that the gesture was comforting to her, and so this is an effort to put on paper some information and memories that were important in my life.
I was born on November 20, 1936 in Livingston, Montana to my wonderful parents, James Joseph Kelly and Myrtle Marie Agnew Kelly. I was the first boy and last child of my Mom and Dad. I was blessed to join my two sisters, Myrtle Marie (Meme) Kelly and Kathryn (Kate) Kelly, who married Mike McGowan, a great brother-in-law. My Dad was raised in Glendive, Montana and at an early age went to work for the Northern Pacific Railroad. My Mom worked at the Beanery in the NP Depot, and it was there that they met and married. Both Meme and Kate were born in Glendive. The family moved to Livingston where I came along. When I was two years old our family moved to Missoula where Dad continued his career with the NP as a truck driver in the transport division. Mom worked as a waitress in Missoula restaurants including Gehring’s Café, the original 4 B’s café and The Coffee Shop in the Florence Hotel when it was the “toast of the town.” We lived on the West side of Missoula in several different houses over the next 20 years. I attended Lowell grade school and St. Francis Xavier grade school and went on to Missoula County High School and graduated by the skin of my teeth in 1954. Immediately following graduation, I went in pursuit of my dream of becoming a U.S. Marine. I begged my Dad to sign for me because I was only 17. My Marine Corps career came to a sudden and very depressing end when I failed the entry physical because of bad eyes. This was without a doubt, the biggest disappointment of my young life. I returned to Missoula with no prospects in mind and went to work at Westerners here in Missoula. In January of 1955 I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty on bases in California, Wyoming, Thule, Greenland and Great Falls, Montana. I requested an early discharge to go to school and enrolled at the University of Montana in the fall quarter of 1959. At that time, it was called Montana State University. “The Griz,” and “The Cats,” of Bozeman were Montana State Colleges. I worked at the Florence Hotel as a bellhop while attending school and met the love of my life, Carol, who worked in the Blue Fountain, also in the Florence Hotel. Our first date was the Foresters Ball. We were married in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho in 1960 and have been blessed with three fantastic children who have made us proud in every way. Jim, a retired airline pilot, John, Owner of 5 Valley Power Wash and Kasey, now with EXIT Real Estate. On April 2, 2004, Kasey and Mike were blessed with the beautiful Sydney Kahl McNulty, and two years later Chance Francis came along. Both are academically and athletically gifted. We feel truly blessed that we are now grandparents and we all relish the thought of watching them grow.
Saint Francis Xavier Church was a big part of my life where I received my First Communion and was Confirmed. My sister Kate was married there, my Mother and Dad were celebrated there along with my sister Meme. All had funeral masses there and I continue as a parishioner. SFX has been a big part of my life.
Through the years, I worked in many jobs, mostly sales related, but looking back I remember the variety of employment that I experienced. The employment list in chronological order beginning in grade school went something like this; Missoulian paper-boy, Ray and Mae Grocery, The Pennant Pool Hall, Westerners, The Florence Hotel, Missoula White Pine, The Highlander Brewery, The Sugar Beet Factory, Safeway Stores, Meadow Land Dairy, D&H Wholesale Supply, 4B’s Restaurants, Rocky Mountain Freezer, Delaney’s Office Products, Brodie Hotel Supply and Imperial Meats. I earned my real estate license in 1985, remaining at Imperial Meat until 1992 when I joined Lambros Real Estate in 2002. Kasey and I opened Kelly Real Estate in 2011. It Sure doesn’t appear that I was very stable, but I worked for some great people along the way and always felt that when I made an employment move it was a step up. I certainly hope that those I worked for felt as good about me as I felt about them.
Another friend I remember from several years back, a great guy, Tom Dobak, went through several years of heart disease and eventually received a heart transplant that added some years to his life. When he was interviewed for a newspaper article, he stated that “Missoula is MY town” and he went on to point out the many fine benefits of “OUR town,” I felt the same as Tom. What a great place to spend a life. I have been fortunate to be here in Missoula, from the time I was two years old and I am thankful for that.
Music has been one of my favorite past times, listening only. The piano sits as a reminder every day that I would like to be able to play one of these days. Hopefully, before I die. I am retired but my goal is to muster up the gumption to practice on a regular basis. I admire those that have taken the time to learn to play a musical instrument. My preferences cover all types of music, but I always return to country music. A few songs that always make me stop and listen are Side by Side by Kay Starr, Watermelon Wine by Tom T. Hall, Amazing Grace, especially on the Bagpipes and Danny Boy, by anybody who sings it. I always get emotional when I hear our national anthem and America the Beautiful by Ray Charles and any song that glorifies America, our home.
Daily walks, a little golf and Grizzly sports are some of my favorite leisure time activities. A line out of a country song that has been an inspiration to me goes something like this; “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it’s what you leave behind you when you go.” I have a lot of good thoughts to take with me and I leave a legacy of a family that I am truly proud of, and now we have Sydney and Chance. What blessings they are.
I’ve done somethings right, but I’ve made a ton of mistakes. Hopefully, I didn’t hurt anyone in the process. Life is a short trip loaded with choices. We make some good choices and some not so good. I have said this before to those close to me and I truly believe that, “I feel I am the luckiest man that ever lived.” I’ve turned 83 and I look forward too many more years with more blessings than I can count.
Bob is survived by his wife Carol of 60 years. His sons, Jim (Corrine) of Billings, John (ida Sajor) of Missoula, daughter, Kasey Kelly-McNulty (Mike), two grandkids, Sydney and Chance of Lolo and a sister, Kathy McGowan (Mike) of Missoula.
Special thanks to all the GREAT people at Partners in Home Health Care and Hospice. A vigil service will be held July 1st, 2020 at 6:00 pm at Garden City Funeral Home. Mass will be held the following morning, at 10:30 am at St. Francis Xavier Church. Condolences may be made at gardencityfh.com.