Henry Lee Kelton Jr.

April 1, 1940April 11, 2020

Henry Lee Kelton Jr. ~ Lee~ 1 April 1940 ~ 11 April 2020 by Lybo Lynn Buchanan Kelton

For the last 30 years I had the adventure of my Lee and I cruised the river Thames in England, learning how to work our way through the locks, to walking on the Wall of China, to sleeping under the stars in Chaco Canyon, riding bikes down Colorado mountains, hiking the Guadeloupe Mountains, snorkeling off the Florida beaches, kayaking the Trinity River, to meeting the President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. it was never dull.

Lee’s gregarious nature and his gift of gab, would follow him around wherever he went. In a room full of people, he would maneuver from one group to another, sharing stories, drinks, and camaraderie. He loved people, and could often times be outrageous.

We shared our love of Celtic music, our involvement with the Southwest Celtic Music Association, and the North Texas Irish Festival, shared our love of nature and the environment through our outdoor adventures and Oak Cliff Earth Day. We were adding one more to that list, as I was joining him as a master naturalist with the North Texas chapter. We were so looking forward to this new-shared experience. Lee became a master naturalist in 2012. He was passionate about our environment and teaching our future generations the importance of keeping it healthy. He often volunteered at the Twelve Hills Nature Center, teaching the kids from the adjacent Rosemont elementary and middle school, all about nature, whether it be plants, birds, critters, bees, or insects. These kids would then develop their leadership skills by passing on what they’d learned to their classmates. He made it fun and entertaining for them, as only Lee could do.

I first met Lee on St Paddy’s Day in 1990, at a newly opened Irish Pub, the Tipperary Inn. The moment he stepped through the door, he stopped to chat with someone and my eyes were drawn to him immediately. I watched him meandering through the room, stopping along the way to talk with folks, and I wondered “who is that guy”. His last stop was my own table, where he sat down. The place was packed so I was sharing a table with several others, including an off the boat Irish chimney sweeper, who Lee was working with during a down period from the oil business. Lee asked me to dance, commented he was surprised I kept up with him during the dance, and the rest is history.

Our first date, started with a voicemail on my answering machine, to meet him at McFarland Auditorium, (if I would like to join him) to see and hear the Bulgarian Voices Women’s Choir. When I got home that evening and heard the voicemail, the show would have already started. Regardless, I drove like a mad woman from my apartment in Grapevine, to the SMU campus, arriving about 10 minutes before intermission. After explaining things to a woman at the box office, she hands me a single rose and told me Lee had left it for me should I come, and she had me wait for the intermission. She would get us seated downstairs together, which she did. It was pouring rain when we left the auditorium that evening. He had a picnic lunch from La Madeleine waiting for me, and a small bottle of wine. We sat in the car with the heavy downpour, and shared that meal together.

Meeting Lee was like a whirlwind. He swept me up and away, bringing a plethora of wonderful friends and family, who embraced me as much as I did them. There were still adventures, we were planning and had yet to experience together… Palo Duro Canyon, Big Ben, Zion, Brice, and Ireland. He was the love of my life, my soul mate, and my best friend. I miss him.

Lee was born on the 1st of April, 1940, to Henry Lee Kelton, Sr. and Frances Nell Fairbairn, in Hobbs, New Mexico. He was the first of 3 children. His father worked for the petroleum industry, so they moved around a lot. While in Hobbs, NM, Lee Sr. was branch manager, selling oil field equipment.

Lee’s sister, Camille came along in Aug of 1942, while the family was living in Odessa, Texas.

Around 1946, when Lee was about 8 years old, the family of four moved to Casper, Wyoming, where they lived for 8 years. Later, the family moved to Oklahoma City, where Lee attended NW Classen High School. Afterwards he attended New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico. However, Lee was never able to join the military, due to his scoliosis. He tried to enlist anyway, five times, but they kept catching him. He said it was probably for the best, since he would have been so gung ho and probably not have survived. God just had other plans for him. Both his sons got to serve in the Army, as well as his wife, me, who served in the Air Force.

Lee’s youngest sister, Leslie, was a surprise to everyone, arriving on the scene in June of 1959. The family was living in Dallas and Lee was attending the Military Institute in New Mexico. He had just come home for a visit, when his mother goes into labor.

Lee married Kate Abbott in 1964 in Denton, Texas, and they had three children together, Henry Lee (Hank), Christopher Curtis, and Rachel Wren.

On 18 Sep 1999, Lee Kelton and Lybo Lynn Buchanan were married in Dallas, Texas.

After studying history and government at the University of North Texas, he worked briefly as a teacher in San Antonio. However, with a wife & family, a teacher’s salary did not go far. He decided he could do better by following his father’s career as a professional landman. He worked for Lone Star Gas for several years before starting his own company, Celtic Land Services, as an independent landman. He worked in the oil fields in Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Texas, from climbing the rigs, to researching titles & negotiating leases. He retired as a landman after 50 years, and was then able to devote his efforts on issues that really mattered to him.

Lee was a Unitarian, and at one time attended First Church in Highland Park, where he participated in their Outdoor Adventure group back in the 1970s and 80s. Many of these friends from those days, are our close friends to this day.

Lee was very involved with the North Texas Irish Festival and its Non-profit organization the Southwest Celtic Music Association since 1985. He remained involve with this group through out the rest of his life, serving on the board and as it’s president for several years. He headed up the teardown crew for the festival for many years up to his death, including constantly working the festival all weekend, picking up supplies, delivering food and water where needed, and pretty much anything that needed doing. In 2012, Lee’s passion for the environment lead him to becoming a Master Naturalist, which he wrapped his heart and soul around, far surpassing the 40 annual required hours to remain certified. His volunteering included the Discovery Gardens, Cedar Ridge Nature Preserve, the Audubon Center, the Trinity River Forest, and last and probably closest to his heart was the Twelve Hills Nature Center, which runs along the boundary of our neighborhood of Kings Hwy Conservation District in Oak Cliff. Lee was so proud to be a part of this. He would also coordinate setting up booth spaces for the Naturalist at both the North Texas Irish Festival and Oak Cliff Earth Day events to further promote the Master Naturalist program.

One adventure Lee undertook that was special and dear to him was riding his bike on the El Comino de Santiago, (the Way of St James), a network of pilgrimage trails through Spain. He was so proud upon completing it and getting his certificate.

Lee Kelton is survived by his wife, Lybo Lynn Buchanan, his 3 children, Henry Lee Kelton III, Christopher Curtis Kelton, and Rachel Wren Kelton Self; his sisters Elizabeth Camille Kelton Assir, her husband, Joe Naim Assir, and Leslie Fay Kelton Taylor, her husband Mark Dale Taylor; nephews Jason Lee Assir (wife Jill Sanders Assir, children Addie and Griffin) and Andrew Joseph Assir (wife Courtney Bell Assir, children Rawley and Grace), Kyle Matthew Taylor, and niece, Claire Taylor Green (husband Sterling Green), sister-in-law, Viki Buchanan Reynolds, nephew-in-law, Jackson Buchanan Reynolds, sister-in-law, Bonita Siler Buchanan, nieces-in-law Briana and Kate Buchanan. He was pre-deceased by his parents, Henry Lee Kelton Sr and Frances Fairbairn Kelton, his brother-in-law Coke Buchanan, and brother-in-law Stuart Reynolds.

Lee Kelton brought joy and laughter where ever he went, and the outpouring of his friends, both old and new was amazing. Though he has left a crater in our hearts, his memory and love of life will see us through to the next.

Lee said that when he passes, he wants to break open the liquor closet and have a party. So once the pandemic restrictions, are removed, we will have a celebration of his life.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to Twelve Hills Nature Center, the National Parks, or the Southwest Celtic Music Association.


Henry Lee Kelton Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Susan Gregory

April 21, 2020

Lee Kelton my friend, you and I will meet again.
Some peaceful place, when we're least expecting it.
And there good man, I will be so happy to see your face as it will only seem like a moment that you had parted.
So grateful for the decades of memories that have
passed between us in friendship and in community.
“May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door. And happiness be with you now and bless you evermore.”
My deepest heartfelt condolences to the family.

Elizabeth Rudd

April 20, 2020

My heart is heavy with sadness to know Lee passed.
Such a wonderful man who always smiled and loved to give hugs.
My best memory is that since I am Hispanic, he always like practicing his Spanish speaking skills when we saw each other.
He will be missed!

ANR CEA, AgriLife

Jim Folger

April 20, 2020

I remember Lee most for his great sense of humor and willingness to volunteer wherever he was needed. He and I were both docents in the snake house at Texas Discovery Gardens, and it was my real honor to present him with a NTMN Quarterly Volunteer Award this past year.

My favorite memory of Lee was when we walked the trails at Kiest Park on a BioBlitz, shared parts of our life histories, and discovered a Patent Leather Beetle together.
We celebrate his life.

John Sweeney

April 20, 2020

My condolences and love to Lybo and Hank and all of Lee’s family. I met Lee when I started working with the NTIF over 30 years ago. Lee was such a wonderful person and great friend. Lee could always find a good aspect of any situation. He was one of the most amazing ambassadors for the North Texas Irish festival. I will truly miss this wonderful man.

Denise Costello

April 19, 2020

I did not know Lee for a long time, but I knew he was a great person after chatting with him on a few occasions at some NTMN events and classes. I am glad I got to see him at the Irish festival.

Connie Koval

April 18, 2020

My condolences and love to Lybo and the rest of Lee’s family. I first met Lee in 2012 when we both joined the North Texas Master Naturalist class. If there was a volunteer event, Lee was there. If there was a training event, Lee was there. Many words describe Lee: generous, tireless, gregarious, kind, giving, sharing, thoughtful, boisterous, inquisitive, knowledgeable, loyal, but most of all a friend. I miss him.

Sandi Hebley

April 17, 2020

Lee was such a dear friend. Always there for a laugh, a comfort, a drink, a party, or conversation. He was such a presence that nothing will be the same. We will adjust and carry on, but he will forever be in our hearts. He has left the world a much better place.

Amy Martin

April 16, 2020

Some spirits depart and the void is immense. Lee Kelton is one of those people. A matchless spirit who gave so much to the world. Dallas is different because of Lee, from the huge impact of the North Texas Irish Festival, to his mirthful outreach with North Texas Master Naturalists, to way he made even strangers smile every day. He was the energy and soul of the Oak Cliff Earth Day. His spirit infuses every square foot of Twelve Hills Nature Center.

This is a tremendous loss. It was sudden, being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia only last week. His great heart, his deep spirit, his tremendous hugs, his terrible jokes, and oh so many stories! We had hikes planned and a new bourbon to share. I can't believe we will never laugh again, that I will never feel his hugs.

But my heartbreak can not compare to that of his wife Lybo Buchanan and his loving family. At sunset some night soon, sip some whiskey, raise high your beer, hold a cup of Irish coffee, and remember this great man and all he has done for the world.

Published tribute to Lee:

Madeline Kelley

April 16, 2020

My birthday always fell around the Irish Fest and it was a family tradition to go to the Irish Fest since we have Welsh/Celtic heritage...Griffith is my family name. Since I was a member of NTMN and later ITMN I would volunteer for Lee and then my family would come and meet me to celebrate my birthday. He was fun and easy to volunteer with. I just had contact with him in early March and was really surprised to know he had this condition. He never spoke of it when I was trying to arrange a date to volunteer.

Here's a Guinness toast to Lee wherever he sings his Irish songs.