As he turned 58 this year, it would once again, be HIS day – the day that both Father’s Day and his birthday fall on the same day - June 17th. So what does that mean? It means floating in the swimming pool, with a glass of whiskey (now what would be fine Ireland pot-still whiskey that became his favorite as I introduced it to him, bringing home a variety from my many jaunts to Dublin for IBM) in his hand, enjoying the sun, and at some point, spending a few hours on the phone with Phil, while I know, Phil is having a glass of whiskey, too.
On April 25th, we will have been married 26 years. When you take those vows, you say “’til death do us part”. If you are like me, you think that is decades from your wedding day – after kids, retirement, traveling, and enjoying life and time with each other and family.
For some, 26 years may seem a lot; but, when our son, Sean, is only 22 years old, 26 years seems way too short.
Early in 2016, we spent time at a multitude of doctor appointments, trying to figure out what was going on; and in only a few days, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. They say it was potentially stage 3, but our gut feel, given those ‘small nodes’ in his liver, it was most likely stage 4 – having metastacized through his body.
Regardless, he valiantly took his battle on directly – stating to do whatever it took, and never complaining. He never let cancer define him or have it disrupt his life - he kept living strong.
For two years, he did very well - really never overwhelmed with nausea, and continued working full time at AIG as well as part time at American Flyers. After the initial chemo and radiation therapy, he got back to riding his Harley, enjoying the fellowship of his friends – especially those that are members of the Rushing Wind Biker Church where his great friend and neighbor, Jeff, is the biker chaplain. Tom started working on his model trains again – one that he started when our son, Sean, was quite young and Sean often helped to build the various models.
He seemed to becoming much more alive – enjoying life. His AIG family provided a luxury of allowing him to work from home, which provided him the opportunity to not just work full time while going through chemotherapy every other week, but provided him the dignity and honor to continue to make a productive living, support our family, and provide the friendship and fellowship needed to persevere each and every day.
If you worked with Tom in any capacity, he used his deep, radio or banker voice for those conversations for when he helped you realize, all on your own, that your idea was probably not the best way forward. You probably heard on more than one occassion, and something he taught me, "If that is what YOU want to do..or, if that is what YOUR decision is...that can be done. As long as YOU understand what that means, I am happy to do what YOU want".
Then, there were those one-on-one conversations - and you would always pick up when Tom called because you knew that whatever it was, he would always make you smile. Starting with "Hey Man", somewhere in between there was a story or joke, and concluding with something witty and "Later Man" - you would have always laughed or smiled many a times throughout the experience.
Besides his quick wit, humor, and making us all feel good, he was one of the brightest individuals in the network and server administration IT fields – a person who could figure anything out and was always humble (unless you were one of those few (which if you were, you probably are not reading this!), when the conversation ended and you didn't know what hit you and, if I was in ear shot, he may have shared a private opinion or two afterwards :-)
Tom and I had the opportunity to work together often. We would get questions asked of us as to what it was like and how we could spend so much time together. Honestly, we hardly ever saw each other during the work day– we each had our own responsibilities and we also respected each other highly in that we each thought the other was so very good at what they did and would not want to work with anyone else who had that same responsibility. Even as we were both working from home the last couple of years, Tom had the downstairs and I had the upstairs – often calling or texting each other, when needed. But, it was a good way to separate home from work even though we were both in the same location. Regardless, our dogs kept us grounded and ensured that anyone on the other end of a phone or skype call knew we were at home and would make sure that others knew when the mailman, trashmen, dogwalkers, or butterflies crossed our yard, or when it was that time to play - whether with one another or deciding to pick the loudest squeaky toy available!
And, as anyone who knows Tom, Sean, our son, was the light of his life! You mention his name, and he would light up and talk anyone's and everyone’s ear off. As Sean mentioned in his high school Salutatorian speech (https://youtu.be/1OSNpQvWEvk)
his dad taught him the social skills, while his mom taught him the academics. I leave it to you to determine what those ‘social skills’ entailed. Either way, the Kelly family’s love of life and humor certainly became of trait of Sean’s. Sean’s quick wit and humor is something he definitely got from his Dad.
Besides his work family, he had his music family - working with bands of all genres - whether it was classic rock, progressive rock, hard rock, tejano, country, or big band - he was awesome at what he did. He could make any one person or band sound great. And, those of you who read this, you know when that was so important - the times when your vocals weren't up to par, your electronics were on the fritz, or you weren't just quite up to task that night.
However, if it weren't for the common love of music, he and I may have never met. Although we worked together at Texas Instruments, we actually didn't meet outside of work until a rehearsal where I was a keyboard player and a mutual friend, Isaac, who was leading the band (Joker's Wild), invited Tom over because he wanted him to run sound. One night, we agreed I would cook him dinner in exchange for him taking me fishing. That led to a few dates, where I had some friends concerned that I was dating someone who may be a bit too wild for me (I really don't know what they were talking about!). But, his kindness and humor is what won me over - and dating turned into our engagement and then marriage. We were blessed to have many of our musician friends participate in our wedding and we had the most awesome reception - musicians from several different bands, who came together, and provided great entertainment for the entire night. I was also blessed that Tom ran sound and I got to play a set - how many of you get to actually participate in such a way at your own reception? !
There are so many other stories to share, I could go on forever.
But, we hope to share those stories and music during his Celebration of Life we are planning for Saturday, June 23rd, 3pm-7pm, at The Fox and Hound (https://foxandhound.com/dallas/)
We hope to organize a Harley ride (ok, biker ride because all are always welcome) would be honored to have his many musician friends again, come together, to celebrate, tell stories, and perform. Tom will want a celebration - not a mourning - he will enjoy having the many different people in his life that he has touched and his many 'families' come together - old and new - from Texas, Kansas, Colorado, North Carolina, California, Georgia, New Jersey, Arkansas, Arizona, and many other locations.
With that said, the reason for this memorial fund is to provide support for dogs. Our family loves dogs - especially rescues. If we had acres, we would have filled them with doggos. If we had won the lotto, they would be one of the first recipients. He was passionate about his dogs - always talking about Ginger, one of his first, that had many puppies. Then, there was Woodrow (Woody), officially Phil's dog - but, one that they enjoyed immensely and he taught how to not chew his nice, new tennis shoes by providing him the opportunity to wear a size 11 tennis shoe for a day!
We have been blessed with Jamaica, Chleo, Harley, and now Lady and Tucker, all rescues, as part of our family. Every time we see rescue organizations, we donate. We would now like this opportunity to be able to support the many more that we just couldn't do on our own.
Therefore, in lieu of any floral arrangements, we would greatly appreciate your donation to this fund. All moneys raised will be used to contribute to local, smaller organizations that do great work at rescuing dogs and their puppies off the streets, help with medical care and training that help them in recovery and finding their furever home, helping our seniors dogs find homes - ones that are often overlooked, and then those that provide guide dog and therapy dog training, and helping our homeless and seniors care for their dogs - the ones that provide the unconditional love and support that they need and often all that they have. Consequently, the reason we didn't choose just one organization - we wanted to help those in need throughout the year.
Therefore, I know your donation is on faith that is what the funds will support. But, please know, this is a passion of our entire family and we would be so blessed to be able to provide such contributions in honor of Tom and provide us with a memorial that we hope to last many months and remembrance of him, not just a one-time gift.
Because goal amounts are required, $5800 was chosen, representing Tom turning 58 in June; however, any amount towards any total, whatever it is, is so greatly appreciated. Our desire is to give in memory and honor of Tom to these wonderful organizations as long as we possibly can.
If you would like to join our Facebook Group - Tom Kelly's Celebration of Life
please do so. We will using this group to organize is June 23rd Celebration of Life event as well as share the stories of the organizations that we are able to help with the contributions and any other stories and photos with Tom that others may enjoy - he touched the lives of so many and it's important to me to be able to record the many memories so as they live on and Sean and I can continue to tell and enjoy throughout the many years ahead.
If you are not a Facebook member (as Tom was never a member of ANY social media platform), please email me directly if you would like to share any photos, attend, and/or participate.
A great friend of mine reminded me that it is ok to let go of 'things' as they don't last or can be enjoyed by others - but, take a photo - photos can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Therefore, over time, photo albums focused on specific themes will be created. The good news is that FB photo albums can be shared with people that do not have an account; therefore, links to them will be posted as they are created so that all can enjoy.
Thank you, for thinking of him and your support!
More about Tom: http://www.williamsfuneral.com/memsol.cgi?user_id=2089734
- Rachel Corr
- Lynne Dyer
- Kathryn Shockley
- Cindy Lefferts
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