Posted: June 24, 2003
GOOD-BYE TO "JOHN D."
John D. Kelly III, the
former sheriff of New Castle County, owner of Kelly’s Logan House
and one of the most colorful local figures of our time, succumbed to
the effects of end stage Parkinson’s disease and passed away on June
21. Mr. Kelly, or “John D.” as he was affectionately known, lived a
storied life, exemplified by his extraordinary generosity and
Mr. Kelly attended
Salesianum and Wilmington High School before enlisting in the U.S.
Marine Corps during World War II. In 1999 he was elected to the
Wilmington High School “Wall of Fame.” As a marine, Mr. Kelly
attained the rank of master sergeant and was a champion middleweight
on the U.S. Marine boxing team at Cherry Point, N.C. He was the
Golden Gloves Champion of North and South Carolina.
Subsequent to the war, Mr.
Kelly briefly boxed professionally before enrolling in Mount St.
Mary’s College in Emmittsburg, Md. In college, Mr. Kelly captained
both the varsity football and boxing teams, and played varsity
basketball. After graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in
economics, Mr. Kelly attended Georgetown University School of Law.
To follow were brief stints in the FBI academy and numerous
positions in industry, including field engineer for Chrysler/Mopar,
and sales representative for Miller Brewing Co. Mr. Kelly also
served as a bodyguard for several celebrities including singers
Johnny Ray, and Rosemary and Betty Clooney.
A lifelong comedian, “John
D.” successfully auditioned for the Jack Parr Show and
performed in numerous clubs throughout the East. He was a popular
emcee and spoke at events throughout the country. He was also graced
with several national television appearances including Jan
Murray’s Treasure Hunt and To Tell the Truth.
In 1960 Mr. Kelly assumed
management of Kelly’s Logan House, an establishment held by the
Kelly family since 1888. Mr. Kelly later purchased the business, and
it remains owned by the family today. While at the Logan House,
“John D.” distinguished himself by his kindness to his patrons and
his memorable “stand up” comedy performances.
Mr. Kelly, a Democrat, began
his public service in 1974 when he was elected sheriff of New Castle
County, an office he served with great dedication and fervor. He was
then elected to register in Chancery for four consecutive terms,
beginning in 1976. In each of those four elections he received more
votes than any other county official. In 1996 he received the
Delaware State Bar Association Award for Distinguished Public
“John D.” engaged in
innumerable charitable causes and was an ardent supporter of those
less fortunate. He had particular interest in orphans and children
with special needs, as well as those who suffered from alcoholism.
He frequently hosted orphans at his home and for years supervised a
Boy Scout troop for children who suffered from Downes’ Syndrome.
Mr. Kelly was an active
member of Optimists International, both serving as president
and recipient of “Optimist of the Year” award. He served as
commissioner of the West Wilmington Optimist Little League. He
embraced Irish-American causes with zeal and, along with former
Mayor Thomas Maloney, he founded the annual St. Patrick’s Day
parade. “John D.” led the first St. Patrick’s Day parade with pride
in 1975 on horseback. He led the parade from St. Patrick’s Church
to the Logan House.
A dedicated Catholic, Mr.
Kelly was a lifelong member of St. Ann’s parish, where he served as
both a lector and usher. He was a 4th degree Knight of
Columbus, and was accepted into the Sovereign Military Order of
Jerusalem. He frequented hospitalized veterans and was a member of
the VFW, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. He was
also a member of the Wilmington Touchdown Club, the Polish Falcons,
St. Anthony’s Men’s Club and several golf clubs.
Mr. Kelly’s talent at comedy
earned him countless speaking and toastmaster engagements, such as
the Lambs Club of New York and the New York Touchdown Club. His
quick wit was legendary, and he always seemed to have the
appropriate quip or joke for any occasion. However, “John D.” will
be most remembered for his profound generosity, both with his time
and resources, toward those in need. He measured his life by how he
treated those who could not possibly repay him.
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