Major John Francis Kelly, Jr. U.S.A.F., retired, received his wings to heaven, on March 11, 2019 after a long illness. The eldest of five brothers, John was born in Corpus Christi August 11, 1946 to John Francis Kelly, Sr. and Mary Louise Flanagan (Kelly). He had an innate passion for increasing his knowledge about the world around him. Born to a military family, John settled in Austin in 1963 when his father joined the faculty of the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Texas. After graduating from McCallum H.S., John attended UT, Where he was in the Plan II Honors program and also earned his M.A. in Library Science, then later earned his M.B.A. while serving in North Dakota. He served in the Air Force for two decades, earning the rank of Major. While in the Air Force, his experiences ranged from service in Thailand during the Vietnam War, working in a missile silo in North Dakota, to his final assignment working in the Presidential Inauguration of George H.W. Bush in 1989. When he retired to Austin, John was able to devote himself to his lifelong passion, birding. John was one of the most respected birders in Texas. he was an active member of the Travis Audubon Society, and served as its President from 1994-1996. He also wrote monthly column for the Audubon Society newsletter for many years. In their tribute to John, his colleagues at the Travis Audubon Society wrote that he donated at least 10,000 hours working at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge (BCNWR). One of his key contributions during that period was establishing an enduring link between the Travis Audubon and the BCNWR. One wrote that he accomplished breeding bird surveys (most notably of golden cheeked warblers) "at a set of 100+ points on the Refuge for a decade, compiling an invaluable data set that has been used in training sessions in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services academy at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in West Virginia. He was not only a tremendous birder (with a great ear) but also an accomplished botanist adding many species to the Refuge list in the early years." John helped establish the Songbird Festival at the Refuge, and for years was its organizer. John shared his passion for birding with many beginners, especially at the numerous Christmas Bird Counts he led. He was stationed in Fairbanks, living several years in a suburb of the North Pole, where he said, "all roads ended". He loved Alaska, and returned for several summers to serve as a bird guide on the North Slope, the Pribilof Islands & St. Lawrence Island. Outside his love of nature, John was also famous in our family for winning 5 consecutive games of the TV game show Jeopardy. When he played in the early 1990's, his winnings mounted for the third highest total in the history of that show. John combined great intelligence with unusual kindness and a dry sense of humor. We will always miss him. He is survived by: brothers Dr. Steve Kelly, (wife Kim, children, Shannon & Sean), Patrick Kelly, Ph.D. (wife Dr. Adriana Wechsler, children Sam & Sarah), Jimmy Kelly, Neal Kelly, (wife Patty, children, Amanda, Ally, Brandon, Daniel, Joey, & their families), Jay Beverly, (wife Laura, child Evan), sisters: Barbara Walters (husband John), Laura Kitley (husband Ronnie, children Spencer, Larissa, & their families). Our family would like to especially thank Neal and Patty for their extraordinary work as John's primary caregivers.
Memorial Service: March 31, 2019, Sunday 3:30 p.m. at 11512 Olson Dr., Austin, Tx. 78750, Hope Presbyterian Church; in lieu of flowers, donations suggested to Travis Audubon Society.