Thomas E.J. Kelly

Thomas Edward Joseph Kelly, age 85, of Saint Georges passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on April 23, 2019. He was born in Clifton Heights, NY and graduated from the Christian Brothers Academy. He subsequently enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he had a distinguished career. Thomas retired from the Marine Corps as a Major in 1979 after 28 years of service. During his time in the Marines, he served as a drill instructor in Quantico, VA and San Diego, CA and was the Inspector Instructor of the Marine Corps Reserves in Delaware.  Major Kelly served as the President of the Delaware Chapter of the Military Officers Assoc. of America and was an active leader for many years in the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots campaign. “The Major” also spent over 25 years working at the Kalmar Nyckel during its construction and subsequent operation, and was one of the first people to be married onboard the Kalmar Nyckel. Most recently, Major Kelly was key in helping establish the Delaware Military Museum.

The Major lived life with a purpose and is remembered for the thousands of moments of kindness, compassion, and generosity to people around him, both known and unknown.

Thomas is survived by his wife of 14 years, Karen Lea Kelly.  Major Kelly was predeceased by his son, Donald Wayne Kelly in 2013. Surviving members of Thomas’ family are his daughter-in-law, Brenda Kelly (wife of Donald) and her three children, Matthew Kelly, Brendan Kelly, and Kevin Kelly; his son, Kenneth Kelly and his wife Wendy of Hockessin, DE, their three children, Megan Sternberg, Christopher Kelly, and Michelle Kelly; his son Ron Kelly and his wife Paula of Hebron, Kentucky, their six children, Christian Vogt, Jerome Pieschel, Matthew Pieschel, Bethany Brown, Jessica Kelly, and Thomas Kelly; his daughter, Kathryn Kelly-Leary and her wife Anna of Tucker, GA, and their two children, Taylor and Micah;  In addition, Major Kelly also had 14 great grandchildren.

He loved his wife Karen and his family deeply and without condition. He loved, admired, and respected the incredible friendships that were built during his journey.  To all of his military brothers and sisters, both current and former… Semper Fi.

A visitation will be held on Wednesday May 1, 2019 from 10:30 to 11:30 A.M. with a Mass of Christian Burial beginning at 11:30 A.M. at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Delaware City. Burial will be held privately in Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Foundation, Gift Processing Administrator, 18251 Quantico Gateway Drive, Triangle, VA 22172. Online condolences may be made to


Submitted by NR on
My sincerest condolences to family and friends of Mr. Kelly. May you find comfort and peace in “the God of all comfort” and his promises found in the Bible - 2 Corinthians 1:2-4; Psalm 83:18; John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15; Revelation 21:3,4.

Submitted by Jan Churchill on
It was a privilege to know him; and to thank him for all he did over the years, especially for the Delaware Military Museum.

Submitted by Jane D on
A loss of a loved one is a burden that God never intended for us to endure. Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin. (Romans 5:12) God yearns to bring back those who have died and are in his memory for them to live forever here on earth (Job 14:14,15). These words from God bring me comfort in my grief and may they bring comfort to you as well. Please visit our website for more comfort from the scriptures. Please accept my sincere condolences.

Submitted by Allen Rawl on
Karen. So sorry to hear of Tom's passing but so glad I had the opportunity to know and work with him on the Kalmar Nyckel Project. Tom was critical to the Project, when everyday the going was a challenge. His military background, along with his diplomatic character was what was needed to keep the crew and shipyard in order. I'll remember him fondly and will certainly miss him at the Salty-dog get togethers but believe me, The Major will be there in spirit. Rest In Peace Tom, you've earned it.

Submitted by Charles Baldwin on
The Major was a true Marine exemplifying all that is great about the Corps. For the last 26 years he has been a strong supporter of many youth programs and always willing to offer his services to our cadets at DMA and at the First State Military Academy. His command presence made you fell safe and that indeed someone present was in charge. I will miss his mentorship and kind ways. Charles Baldwin Command Master Chief BMCM(SW)USN Ret.

Submitted by Tim Brooks on
I was deeply saddened to hear about "The Major". I shared the stage with him on many occasions at ROTC ceremonies at UD. I also worked with him for many years on the Memorial Day Parade Committee for the City of Newark. He was a wonderful person and will be profoundly missed!

Submitted by Bruce Shumway on
It was an honor to know and work with Major Tom over the years. He actively incorporated my Junior ROTC cadets from Christiana High School into the Newark Armed Forces Day Parade and ceremonies and was a regular presenter at our annual awards event bringing his rich Marine Corps traditions to our youth. He will be greatly missed as a companion in the Wilmington chapter of the Military Order of World Wars. Our sincerest condolences to Karen and his extensive family members. Bruce Shumway, Commander, U.S. Navy (Ret)

Submitted by mealey on
From Vanderlyn Downing - Dearest Karen, I was so sad to hear your beloved Tom passed away. You two had the chemistry! He was lucky to have found you, I know you were loving to him always. May he rest in God’s loving arms. Love, Van

Submitted by Hutch on
Karen, My heart felt condolences on your loss. I remember meeting you the year I joined the Kalmar Nyckel and then meeting Major Tom through you. I remember your wedding with great fondness. I am sorry that I cannot attend the memorial services to express my sympathy in person and give you a hug, but duty calls. I will be aboard our beloved ship educating 4th graders from North Smyrna. Major Tom definitely understood DUTY FIRST. Hutch