Remembering Naval Hero John Kelly

Nell Morisette
NewsTribune Special Columnist

Hello, readers. It looks as if our spring weather of warm sunshine days and wearing shorts is going to turn into February's winter month and back to long johns in good ole Benton County.

A Few of My Memories of Mr. Kelly

As long as I can remember, there was a Mr. Kelly, I visited in his and Mrs. Kelly's home before they moved to Eva. Even now, in talking about the place, it's referred to as "John Kelly's old place." My aunt and her family rented and lived there at one time.

As stated at the beginning of this write-up, he was a very modest man, and had a way with children that we all loved him. He never tired of us asking questions, he was always ready with a smile and a kind, knowledgeable answer.

Mr. Kelly, as a diver, had been down in and explored the gunboats sunk by General Forrest as well as other boats sunk up and down the Tennessee River.

Even as young children, by his voice we could tell if he was serious about the subject he was talking about or if it was a humorous tale. He did tell us that if people knew what lay on the bottom of the river, they would be afraid to wade and swim in it and would be very cautious in a boat.

After Mr. Kelly and Mr. Pafford went out of the canning business, a few carp could still be found. Mr. Kelly would bring carp to our house, and my mother would can them for him in our pressure cooker. For every cooker full my mother canned, he would give her so many jars for her pay. The fish were good and made fried carp patties that tasted as good as salmon patties.

I was living in Illinois when Mr. Kelly had his surgery and later passed away, and didn't get to attend his funeral. As I close on Mr. Kelly's life, I would like to say I am honored to have known and respected this man named John Raymond Kelly.

Following is Mr. Kelly's obituary from the Nashville Tennessean.
b. April 7, 1892
d. January 17, 1956

John R. Kelly, 63 Deep Sea Diver, Dies

CAMDEN, Tenn. - John Raymond Kelly, 63, retired deep sea diver for the U.S. navy, died here yesterday morning after a long illness.

Mr. Kelly underwent an operation for a brain tumor last September, and had been confined to a hospital for the last three weeks after a recurrence of his illness.

Military funeral services will be at the Eva Methodist church at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, and burial will be in Flatwoods Cemetery.

Since the end of World War II, Mr. Kelly had been a colorful figure in the western part of Benton county. He made his home in the little community of Eva, near the banks of Kentucky lake, where he spent a great deal of time indulging in his favorite hobby, fishing.

John Kelly

He was well known and well liked by the children of the community, to whom he would tell stories of his many hears in the navy. Frequently they would join him on fishing jaunts.

A native of Clinton, Maine, Mr. Kelly was the son of Horace and Hannah Kelly. He retired from the navy in March, 1941, after 30 years' naval service during which he traveled around the world five times and took part in World War I and the Mexican campaign.

But the United States became involved in World War II a few months after his retirement, and he was recalled to duty in July, 1942. Because of a heart ailment, he was not permitted to return to sea, but was stationed throughout the war at Algiers, La., naval training base. He was discharged as a warrant officer in October, 1945, two months after the surrender of Japan.

He attended the Methodist church at Eva.

He was married to Miss Elise Davis of Waverly, Tenn., who survives. Other survivors include two children by a former marriage, two brothers and seven sisters, all living in Maine.


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Brian Nichols

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