Posted: June 24, 2003


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 unparalleled humor. 

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 Service.  

“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.