Cover photo for James J. Kelly Jr.'s Obituary
James J. Kelly Jr. Profile Photo

James J. Kelly Jr.

Jim passed away Friday, August 7, 2020 at his home in Plainwell.

He was born March 23, 1930 in Detroit, the son of James and Lenore (Jepson) Kelly. Jim proudly served his country in the U.S. Air Force as an aerial photographer. Jim was an avid softball player and golfer. He was a member of the American Legion. On October 18, 1952 in Detroit, he married Evelyn Clayton who survives.

Also surviving are his children, Kathy (Richard) Griffin of Florida, Dianne Blink of California, James (Kathy) Kelly III of Lake Orion, Thomas (Pamela) Kelly of Texas, William (Tammy) Kelly of Kalamazoo, Susan (Matt) Baker of Otsego and Richard (Kelly) Kelly of Wixom; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were the joy of his life and siblings, Patricia Laux, Richard Kelly and Timothy (Joan) Kelly.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

According to his wishes cremation has taken place.

Burial of ashes will take place at Fort Custer National Cemetery at a later time.

Contributions in memory of Jim may be made to

Wings of Hope Hospice


Jim and his family appreciated the care he received from the VA and Wings of Hope Hospice in Allegan.

Messages of condolence may be posted at


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Condolence Messages

Susie Knapp

August 7, 2020 at 1:49 pm

So many memories of the family at the pub-sorry 4 your loss


Edythe Fields

August 8, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Kathy and family we offer you our sincere condolences. May your father rest in peace and God give your mom strength to get through these trying times.

Love, Edye and Robert Fields


Kay Oubre

August 8, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Dear Kathy

Wishing you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your heart.

Deepest Condolences to you and your family

Kay and Will


Tammy kelly

August 9, 2020 at 12:46 am

The best father inlaw a girl could ever ask for! I will miss you terribly pops you shared many stories ALWAYS told me how proud of me you were! You loved big band music and so did I so many memories made throughout the years. I thank God for you it has been a rich blessing to be your daughter inlaw. Rest well until we meet again.


Phillip & Charlene Luney

August 9, 2020 at 7:25 am

Kathy and family you are in our thoughts and prayers. May your memories of all the years together bring joy and comfort at this time.

In Sympathy,

Phil & Charlene Luney


Gail de Faria-Harris

August 9, 2020 at 7:33 am

Kathy and Family, So sorry to know of your loss.

Love, Gail & John


Shelly Clark

August 9, 2020 at 12:01 pm

Such a great guy…loved all the basketball games and your family. Condolences to the family…prayers for strength during this time!


Keelyn Eby

August 9, 2020 at 1:05 pm

The world lost a great man. He will be truly missed.


June ritter

August 9, 2020 at 1:26 pm

So sorry for your loss. Praying for your family.


Darlington’s Bruce & Jeanne

August 9, 2020 at 3:17 pm

Aunt Evelyn and family

So sorry to hear about Uncle Jim. What a great gentleman. Always happy-go-lucky and a great personality. Love to all the Kelly family.


David & Denyse Clayton

August 9, 2020 at 6:52 pm

Rest in Peace, Uncle Jim. Wishing wonderful memories, blessings and peace to Aunt Evelyn and each member of the Kelly family. XXXOOO


Dan ORourke

August 9, 2020 at 9:52 pm

Heaven has received another angel Praise god


Gary K Schueler

August 9, 2020 at 11:03 pm

I will never forget the stories, talks and great times we shared. The father daughter dances, when I needed help with dance partners for my girls, Jim enjoyed those dances as much as I and the girls did. Then not to mention the picnics, birthday celebrations, holidays and shared meals. Jim Kelly touched so many peoples liv

es, more than I know, in so many possitive ways. God Bless you, you will be missed but never forgotten.


Alex Schueler

August 10, 2020 at 1:12 am

My dearest grandfather passed away this past Thursday evening. It’s taken me those few days to gather my thoughts and write something on it. I can’t quite put into words the kind of man he was and the bond we had. He was generally more quiet but when he did have something to say, it was either wise advice, an interesting story (that we may have already heard a few times but I was always eager to listen because I knew I’d miss hearing him to tell his stories one day), or a quick, witty joke. He was also very proud of his Irish heritage: he taught me the phrase “top o’ the mornin to ya” when I was little. After learning that, every time I’d stay the night, I’d come out in the morning to see my grandma and grandpa with their newspaper and coffee and I’d say “top o’ the mornin to ya.” He’d look up from his newspaper, chuckle, give me the warmest smile, and say “and the rest of the day to you.” I’ll never forget the sound of his chuckle.

Those who were a part of his life were very lucky to be. I feel fortunate to be his granddaughter specifically, because word on the street was: he’d give his cocktail maraschino cherries out to all his grandkids but never let his kids have them when they were growing up I will miss him fiercely, but will cherish and appreciate the times I did have with him. His famous response to “I love you” was “two-way street” so now I know I have a two-way street to heaven.


Ryan Coe

August 10, 2020 at 6:47 am

The world lost a great man this week, and Heaven gained a real pain in the you know what! Throughout the sports stories grandpa has shared with me from as early as when I could dig my bony butt into his legs, a common theme always seemed to emerge. Grandpa could find your weakness and exploit it. And if you perceived his size to be a weakness, he would exploit that, too! He was smart, tough as hell, and if there was a lack of anything, his heart and drive more than made up for it!

For me, grandpa was always a big man in a small world. Did you ever notice how most of his stories expressed surprise connections, experiences that could be mistaken as coincidences, run ins with big shots…always influencing, always connecting? He shared his last story with me as we were watching an old Lions game last week. The game seemed to bring him to life as he asked people to get out of the way when Barry had the ball. Then, he shared he hit a guy so hard in a game that he broke his leg. The next week, he sat down with grandma and her girl friend at a restaurant. The friend started talking about her boyfriend and how he just got hurt in his most recent game. Grandpa had broken her boyfriend’s leg!

There are countless stories to share, but one that resonates with me was a service story grandpa shared about 12 years ago while visiting our home in California. Grandpa and a group of soliders were traveling to their assignment. An African American man and fellow soldier stepped onto the bus. He was immediately told to move to the back. Grandpa stood and said the seat next to him was open. He said everyone on this bus is a soldier, and no one needed to move to the back. No one argued.

The last thing I’ll share is that grandpa represented hope and that the impossible was always possible for me during the times of my life I needed it most. When my parents divorced after I turned 4, my mom, Kelly and I eventually ended up living with grandma and grandpa for a couple years. Though he said my bony butt hurt everytime I sat on him, not once did he tell me to get up; and there were very few nights I missed a Tigers game or Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy or Cheers from his lap. Looking back, I desperately needed that support during that time. And second, whenever I needed reprieve from living in the trailer park or a place to type my papers for school (which was often), grandma and grandpa’s door was ALWAYS open. I am the writer, the teacher, the leader, and the father I am today in large part thanks to their openness, love and support.

No task too difficult! No challenge too great! Grandpa’s legacy for me will be the “can do” attitude he instilled in my mother and in me. In my mind, this is what it means to be a Kelly. As my colleagues and I face the challenge of preparing the third largest district in California, 74,000 children and a community of over 500,000 people for a school year full of unknowns and a start that is fully online, the Kelly legacy lives strong; and I am fully confident we will overcome and thrive together!

To this great man in a small world who is probably pitching a mean knuckle ball on a Heavenly softball field as we speak, love you, grandpa! Thank you for your encouragement, love, patience, and inspiration that will live in and spread from your family forever!


Dianne Blink

August 10, 2020 at 8:21 am

Memories: Dad, I remember the boat rides, driving the boat (sitting in Dad’s lap), taking turns with 12 other siblings and cousin-siblings to go waterskiing, (you and Uncle Bill would spend the entire day pulling us young skiiers). I remember how you took us on a vacation every year (no small feat with a family of 8 to provide for). I remember watching you coach little league using colorful phrases like, “Come up bloody, but come up with that ball” and “Do not brag – we let our bats do the talking.” I remember when you would go on business trips and you would bring home a great big glass gallon jug of Dad’s Root beer. I will always remember the special feeling whenever you said, “I am so proud of you.” Growing up with you as my Dad was fun! You were also serious when you needed to be – a real healthy mixture of both. You and Mom gave me such a wonderful childhood and then you walked me down the aisle. That was a very special moment. You made a very smooth transition from provider to friend and advisor and your opinions always meant very much to me because I knew they were coming from a place of intelligence and caring. I know that your are in the presence of God hearing, “Well done, my child.” Rest in peace and in the love and light of God, Dad. Thank you for a lifetime of beautiful memories! I love you! Well done, my father!


Erin Wiley

August 10, 2020 at 9:55 am

Many people shape your lives as you grow. Along with my parents, Uncle Jim and Aunt Ev have shaped me into the person I am today. My formative years were surrounded by these four as well as the 12 kids all growing up in the same house. They showed us how to work hard and to play even harder. They showed us life does not have to slow down as you get older but how to live every day to the fullest. I am thankful to all that I have learned from these 4 people.

Uncle Jim you will be missed and memories and life lessons that were gained from you being in my life will he passed on to generations to come.

You showed many how to live a good life and how to throw a good show.

I am comforted that you, Dad and Larry will all be together looking down on us.

Love to all the Kelly’s.


James J Kelly III

August 10, 2020 at 10:19 am

On Thursday August 6, 2020 at around 11:30 pm, the greatest man I have ever known left this world. My heart is breaking right now, but I know that I will go on because my parents raised their children to be strong and independent.

My dad was not perfect, but we always knew we were loved.

My dad was my hero. To this day, when faced with tough decisions, I think “How would dad handle this?”.

To all my brothers and sisters (that includes you Rick) I love you all. We are struggling right now, but the laughter will return. That is what Dad would want.

My mom is the strongest woman I know. Please keep her in your prayers.

I love my dad and will miss him every day for the rest of my life, but I am comforted in knowing that he is no longer in pain.

Rest well, Pop.


Taylor Kelly

August 10, 2020 at 11:07 am

I cannot just simply jot down who you were to me, and to SO many others. I feel like anyone that knows me personally or follows me on a professional level, needs to know about my grandfather and celebrate his life with me, because he helped shape who I am today.

He instilled a competitiveness in my that has almost gotten me killed a couple of times, but saved my life even more.

I never had to question if he was going to be on the sidelines cheering me on. Because he loved to see me win- not the competition with an opposing team, but win by growing my skills and developing as an athlete and a person.

He’d always brag about my RBI’s, or how many runners I threw out, or rush over to give me a tip in the dug out after my last at bat- regardless of the outcome. Softball was his favorite! But whether it was me, or my cousins, or volleyball, tennis, track, or basketball- he was there.

He even came to my local “mountain” several times to watch me rip down the 300 something elevation. And every time called it a skate-board but I was okay with that ❤️❤️❤️

He always would tell me how much fun he had as a photographer in service. He encouraged me that if photography and design was something I was passionate about I should pursue it. So I did.

He encouraged me. He always encouraged me.

I love you, grandpa. Colton will have all the tools you gave me, and he will know where I got them.



August 10, 2020 at 11:29 am


I am seriously going to miss you so much! The patience and love you had for all the small children that were always around is astonishing to me. From letting us girls put pony tails all over that full head of sleek, white hair to taking us to the golf course and letting us drive you around while you played to dealing with all the kids running a muck around your house all the time! So many great memories surrounding you and grandma, and that is a true testament to the love and caring you had for anyone and everyone who crossed your path.

Thank you for all the crazy stories you shared and the love you showed all of these years. I feel very blessed to be one of your many grandchildren, and somehow you made each and every one of us feel special. Rest easy grandpa ❤️


Shari Clayton Handley

August 10, 2020 at 1:15 pm

I have enjoyed reading all these loving tributes. I have so many fond memories of times at your home in Lake Orion as a child. Always welcoming, always hospitable, always fun. Rest in peace, Uncle Jim!


Kelly Coe

August 10, 2020 at 1:29 pm

I love Grandpa Kelly more than words could ever describe. He had two nicknames for me, KC! and Princess. He is the reason why I love cherries so much. The cherries that were forbidden when Mom was growing up were abundant for his grandchildren. Grandpa’s passion for softball inspired me to become a pretty darn good player. Grandpa was amazing at solving crossword puzzles. Also, I used to admire him while watching Wheel of Fortune, and as I grew older, he came to admire me, as I am pretty quick to solve the puzzles. I’ll always remember how much fun he had listening to his favorite Dixieland Jazz band, and he always danced with me. He was proud when I became a teacher, and when I made a gospel hip hop CD, he wanted his own copy. I’m a pool shark because of him too, since I started playing when I was young, because he had a nice pool table in his basement. Grandpa was always supportive through successes and struggles. I loved listening to his stories of past jobs, and sometimes he would take me places to show me where he used to work. I wonder if he wanted to show me the place or show me off to his old co-workers. Always proud of his loved ones, there was no questioning his love. Tears in my eyes as I write, but I know we’ll meet again in heaven. Until then, I’m comforted knowing he’ll always be rooting for me from above.


Robert ORourke

August 10, 2020 at 2:41 pm

There are so many great memories when I think of you Grandpa. So many moments with you that I am reflecting on as I sit here starring at my computer screen thinking to myself what I would give for one last CHAT with you. There are people in life that are just different. There are those that have something just a bit more special than everyone else.. Some people can simply make the world a better place just by there presence.. Grandpa you were that person.. You are a super hero to me and so many others you touched throughout your life.. Your hugs were magical. The pure love that was felt from each and every hug and embrace is something everyone of us should hope to feel.. You are a hero to me and I can tell you my son Connor looked at you with such amazement with each conversation that you had with him. Connor light up everytime he knew you were in the stands , whether it was a baseball game or basketball game or your favorite his football games. You brought out something special in him just like you have with everyone who was lucky enough to get time near you..

I was lucky and blessed enough to become your grandson when i was 8 years.. I can specifically recall the exact first time I met you.. it was in the otsego house.. I was nervous when I got there.. but that nervousness quickly turned to a subtle calm the minute I shook your hand… you welcomed with open arms and I can tell you the Word ” step grandson ” never ever was felt from the day I met you…

There was no doubt I was a wild child.. a bit of a pain in the “ass” at times.. but you were always patient with me… you always had such a confident calming tone with me… Grandpa you are the reason i am the confident and successfull father and man I am today … You always told me i would do great things.. You always filled me with confidence and the belief that could do anything.

Grandpa my heart is aching for just one more hug from you.. one more chat.. one more opportunity to see you in the stands cheering on Connor as he continues down his own road, but we know you now have the Best seat in the house.. and we will all miss you dearly in this life but we all know we will see you in heaven,.. with open arms and plenty of snacks..

We love you grandpa… thank you for everything you have done for me .. there are no words that can ever explain how much you mean to me…


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