Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Home

1490 B Street, Merced, CA


Karen Lucille Kelleher

March 19, 1946November 7, 2019

Karen Lucille Kelleher, was born in Hot Springs, SD, to William and Lucille Hiller, on March 19, 1946. She spent her early years in Custer. SD, beginning school in Rapid City, SD, after the family moved there following her father’s joining the Air Force. In 1954, mother, brother and Karen traveled by air, ship and rail to join dad in Misawa, Japan for year and a half. In 1956, they returned to Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City SD where she continued her schooling. In 1960, the family transferred to Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, TX, were in 1964, Karen was in the first graduating class from Hirschi HS. While enjoying many aspects of high school, certainly the most memorable was the April 3, 1964 tornado which struck Wichita Falls at 2:35, tearing through the area, barely missing her home. She and her classmate sheltered in the hallways for protection, with the awesome "freight train like sound" all around. The family home experienced some damage, the home four houses away was destroyed. The family transferred in late 1965 to Castle AFB and purchased a home in Merced, CA.

She went to Merced Community college for her AA degree and then to Fresno State until May 1967 when she returned home and went to work at worked at Swenson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Merced. She met John Griffiths, whom she married April 5, 1968, and moved to Mountain View. Karen voted for Bobby Kennedy in her first primary presidential race, awaking the next morning to the news of his assassination, she was really shaken. She worked as a bookkeeper for Westinghouse Credit Corporation where she acquired extraordinary accounting and typing skills. In 1970 she became a partner in Family Financial Advisors in San Jose and ran the operations of that firm for 3 years. When the business was sold, she was asked to join the FFA law firm and became a highly successful legal secretary. She stayed with the firm until 1979 at which time she moved back to Merced and took a position with Attorney Ralph Temple. She had a reputation of being able to type from a Dictaphone at a rate of 105 words a minute WHILE listening to the Giants game in the other ear! She enjoyed camping and motorcycle trips with her Mom and Dad and was a proficient dirt rider on fire trails and hills. In 1979 she rejoined the congregation at St Paul’s Lutheran Church. In 1980, she was asked by the Pastor Eisberg if she continued to be interested in adopting a baby and 4 days later welcomed Andrea Danielle into the family. Andrea was the absolute joy of Karen’s life and she was overjoyed when granddaughter Samantha was born in 2010.

She always said she wanted to be like her Dad’s sister “Auntie” Elma and was a great “Auntie” to her nephews and nieces and to their children. In the Hiller family “Auntie” is special title and one she filled fabulously.

Divorced from John, she met Gary Kelleher in the summer of 1985, and they married June 13, 1986. She continued to work as a legal secretary until 1995 when she moved to Winton and became a business partner at Kelleher Communications, working in the communication industry on CATV, construction, marketing and service contracts. Retiring in 2001, they purchased a home in Le Grand in 2003 and began working as the Castle Air Museum Volunteer Coordinator, a position she held until 2016 when she became the primary care giver of her parents in Merced. She continued in that role until their passing this past year.

She is survived by husband Gary Kelleher, brother William and wife Mary, daughter Andrea, husband Kelly and granddaughter Samantha, stepson Matthew Kelleher and many nieces and nephews. v


  • Stephen Hiller, Pallbearer
  • Eric Patterson, Pallbearer
  • Wyatt Carmichael, Pallbearer
  • Ethan Carmichael, Pallbearer
  • Kelly Clark, Pallbearer
  • Davis Gunter, Pallbearer


22 November


4:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Home

Merced, California

23 November

Funeral Service

11:00 am

St. Paul Lutheran Church

Merced, California

25 November

Graveside Service

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery

Santa Nella, California


Karen Lucille Kelleher

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