Thomas F. Kelaher

June 24, 1932February 21, 2021

Thomas F. Kelaher of Toms River New Jersey passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family after a brief illness at the age of 88.

Tom was born in Jersey City in 1932. His father worked for the Milwaukee Road Railroad Company and moved the family to Buffalo, NY where Tom spent a good part of his childhood. While there, Tom worked as a paperboy, was active in the Scouts and volunteered with the Civil Defense during World War II. The family returned to Jersey City where Tom attended Saint Peter's Prep. After graduating high school Tom enlisted in the Marine Corps PLC program in 1951 and studied at Saint Peter's College. While in college he served in the Marine Corps Reserve and worked as a newspaper photographer for The Hudson Dispatch. While on active duty he was stationed at Camp Pendleton and later at Lakehurst Naval Air Station where he met the love of his life Caroline Finley of Toms River. Tom and Carol married in 1958 at Saint Joseph’s Church.

Tom and Carol moved to West Orange where Carol worked as a school teacher and helped put Tom through Seton Hall Law School. After graduation Governor Richard J Hughes appointed Tom the Deputy Attorney General for the state of New Jersey. Tom and Carol moved back to Toms River where he joined the law firm of Herring Grasso and Gelzer and worked as the Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor. Tom relished his time with the prosecutor's office in the late 60's and early 70's and often spoke about returning one day.

Tom's Jesuit education and time in the Marine Corp would come to define his life of service to his community, his church and his country. He followed in the footsteps of his father-in-law Joseph W. Finley and became very active in the growth of Community Medical Center where he was on the board of trustees from 1975 to 2000 and served as Chairman for 14 years. He was Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Barnabas Healthcare System and Chairman of the Board of Clara Mass Medical Center and in May 1998 he was named Hospital Trustee of the Year.

Tom devoted a great deal of his energies to Saint Joseph's Church and was very active in the Century Club and Catholic Charities. He served as Trustee, Lector and Eucharistic Minister at St. Joseph’s for over 50 years. He was recognized at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York by Cardinal John Egan and was installed as a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher.

Tom was dedicated to local and state law-enforcement. He taught at the Ocean County Police Academy for over 30 years where he developed life-long friendships over generations of police officers and departments in the county. Throughout his successful career in private practice, he also worked as the prosecutor and township attorney for several local municipalities before finally returning to his dream job as the Ocean County Prosecutor in 2002. Tom loved his time spent with the investigators, detectives, prosecutors and all of the dedicated staff at the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

After stepping down from his position with the Prosecutor's Office, Tom, for the first time, ran for office. In 2007 Tom was elected Mayor of Toms River and went on to serve three terms and continued his lifelong mission of service to others. Tom delighted in his involvement with town hall and all the people that worked there as well as the members of our volunteer fire departments, EMTs and other government service people that shared his commitment to serving our community.

In recognition of Tom‘s public service he was named Man of the Year by the Ocean County Police Chiefs Association, Toms River Rotary Club, Toms River B'Nai B'rith, the Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, The Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick of the Jersey Shore and was also recognized with the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Tom is survived by his wife of almost 63 years Carol, and their four children: Patty Thompson (DrewThompson) Nancy Larrain (Santiago Larrain) John Kelaher (Chelle Kelaher) Mike Kelaher (Regan Kelaher). He will be remembered as beloved Pop Pop to his eight grandchildren Danny and Alex Thompson, Miguel and Tomas Larrain, Finley and Glenn Kelaher and Quentin and James Kelaher.

Tom will be laid to rest at St. Joseph’s Cemetery. Funeral services will be held privately with Tom’s family. A service to celebrate Tom’s Life will be announced at a later date.

The family would like to thank the staff and nurses of Community Medical Center for their loving care and support throughout Tom’s illness.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Toms River Field of Dreams at

Family and friends may visit to leave condolences to his family.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Thomas F. Kelaher

have a memory or condolence to add?

Francis Piscal

March 1, 2021

My condolences to the entire Kelaher family.

Tom Kelaher was a great man. He served his country with honor; he served the Ocean County community with generosity and distinction.

He was accomplished but always kept his ego in check.

My family will always cherish our relationship with Tom.

Michael Ryan

February 27, 2021

Io Pavo and Semper Fidelis. Rest Well!!! Mike

Supervisory Special Agent Michael Ratta

February 27, 2021

What an amazing life dedicated to community and country. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kelaher Family and all those that are saddened by the loss of a true American patriot.


February 26, 2021

Celebrating a beautiful life and praying that you'll be filled with happy memories and surrounded by love.

It was my greatest honor to arrange a memorable and well deserved vacation after all of the trials and tribulations from Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Kelaher was always a delight to interact with and will be deeply missed.

With warm thoughts, Vanessa Thompson from AAA Toms River NJ CCIT.

charles sanders

February 25, 2021

I offer my sincere condolences to Mayor Kelahers family upon his death at Community Medical Center. I had the honor and opportunity to speak, one on one, with the Mayor a couple of years ago outside the municipal center. Though we never previously met, I instigated the conversation, thanking him for his service to Ocean County and Toms River. I have lived in TR for over 30 years. The additional driving force behind my outreach were several significant elements, namely, also growing up in Jersey City and attending St. Peters Prep and College and Seton Hall Law School. We briefly shared similar aspects of JC life, Jesuit training and law school work. His conversation with me as a brief interruption from his hectic schedule fully reflects his positive s outlined in his obituary. I trust this message conveys my small positive outlook of his valuable contributions as Mayor, family man and religious benefactor.

Gloria Walsh

February 24, 2021

Our sincere condolences to Carol and the entire Kelaher family. You are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Residents and Staff of Harrogate.

Dennis Fitzgerald

February 24, 2021

It is with sadness that we learned of the passing of a friend and a inspiration for the NYPD retired Jersey Shore 10-13 Association.
Tom was with us all the way from helping start up the Association with the our
by-laws to attending our swearing in ceremonies all through the years. He always found time for us and never said no to any requests.
As a board member I speak for myself, the board and all our members, that Tom will be truly missed and he will be in our prayers .
May God hold him in the palm of his hand and welcome him into his kingdom. May he Rest In Peace.
Jersey Shore 10-13 Association
Dennis Fitzgerald VP

Sarah Christian

February 24, 2021

I first met Mayor Tom in 2014 at the Seaside Semper Five 5K. His big heart, love for his community, and dedication to serving others were front and center, and something I greatly admired. I feel honored to have met Mayor Tom and his wife Carol and will cherish those memories always. Mayor Tom was incredibly proud of his service as a U.S. Marine and truly lived their ethos, "Semper Fidelis." "Never above you, never below you, always beside you"

Marlene Repoli

February 24, 2021

All through the years that I have known Mayor Keleher, Myself and my husband Tom grew to love him! We were thrilled when he agreed to marry us! My daughter Lynda was his secretary for all the time he was Mayor and she regarded him as a special person in her life as well as her daughters, who looked up to him as a grandfather! My deepest sympathy to Carol, and hid children!


February 23, 2021

Tom was such a wonderful person, often giving me a ride to Caregivers events. His wife, Carol, a good friend of mine, also belongs to Caregivers