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Harry Carter Kelly, beloved husband of Bernice Gibson Kelly, departed this world peacefully on Wednesday, January 31st, 2024, at 11:30 AM at Sunrise Senior Living-Chevy Chase, marking the end of a remarkable journey at the age of 105. Born in Millwood, Virginia, on November 3rd, 1918, to Janie Randolph and Frank Harris Kelly, Harry's life traversed a century, anchored between two pandemics, from the Spanish Flu in 1918 to his triumphant survival of Covid-19.
Harry's life, encapsulated by the dash between his birth and passing, unfolded as a tapestry of accomplishments and milestones.
During his formative years in Millwood, he found solace in the unhurried pace, enveloped by the profound history of his ancestors who once toiled on the very land that cradled his home. It was within the cherished bucolic landscapes of Clarke County that his passion for golf blossomed, as he served as a dedicated caddy.
Mr. Kelly pursued higher education at Hampton University, Howard University, and American University where he studied business. Later in life he would attend Trinity College in Washington, DC to receive a certificate in religious studies. After his early college pursuits, Kelly served his country during World War II, enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941 as a drill sergeant. Following his honorable discharge in 1945, he transitioned to a distinguished career as a firefighter in Washington, DC, overcoming the challenges of a segregated department. Witnessing the transformation of the DCFD to full integration, he retired as a fire inspector in 1971, leaving an indelible mark on the department. In 2022, on his 104th birthday, Harry Kelly received well-deserved recognition as the oldest living retired firefighter, an event that garnered widespread attention.
Post-retirement, his life flourished with successful ventures in real estate, golf, and extensive travel. Kelly was often spotted on the golf course with one of his fellow parishioners and best friend, the late Fred Valentine.
In addition to his various accomplishments he was a recipient of 2 patents: a US Patent and a US Design Patent for the invention of a food flavor injector. A devout Catholic, he dedicated himself to various roles within the church, including a daily recitation of the Rosary, a member of the Knights of Columbus, an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) instructor, a Eucharistic Minister, and a docent at The National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Post Sunday masses, Mr. Kelly would frequently lead convivial religious conversations with friends at his favorite local diner. His recitation of the Rosary would lead him to reflect in his favorite spot–the pier at the Kelly family homestead in Annapolis. He was godfather to several children in various parishes.
To his wife of 73 years, Harry was not just a husband but also a father, friend, an intrepid travel companion. Together, they embarked on numerous adventures, weaving a tapestry of cherished memories while hosting unforgettable celebrations at their splendid residence, nestled at the entrance of Rock Creek Park. Their shared passion for gardening resulted in a envy-inducing masterpiece of a garden.
Their home became a repository of familial history, with Mr. Kelly seizing every opportunity to impart the rich legacy of the Carter/Randolph family to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. The residence, a hub of warmth and wisdom, served as a canvas where the values of education and dignity were seamlessly woven into the family's narrative. In addition to gatherings at his DC residence, Harry looked forward to family reunions and casual gatherings in Millwood, Virginia.
Harry held a special place in his heart for his three granddaughters, finding joy in witnessing their growth and the expansion of their own families. His legacy endures through the love of life he shared and the indelible memories he crafted for generations to come.
Harry Carter Kelly was preceded in death by his parents, Frank Harris Kelly and Janie Randolph (Kelly), his sister Virginia Elizabeth Randolph, his brother William "Peg" Kelly, his sons Michael and Steven and his son-in-law Vernon Henery. He is survived by his devoted wife, Bernice (Gibson) Kelly, his daughters Janet Kelly-Henery (Vernon) and Catherine Kelly, his granddaughters Lauren Kelly-Washington, Ashley Henery McMillian, and Chelsea Henery, his great-grandchildren Carter Richardson and Iris Maeve Henery McMillian, and his nephew Ronald Kelly. Meeting Harry C. Kelly was an opportunity to encounter living history. We have been blessed with his presence in our lives and we will hold him in our hearts forever.
In lieu of flowers, as tribute to Harry Kelly’s generosity for the poor, the family kindly requests sending donations to Mr. Kelly's favorite social impact charity, SOME (So Others Might Eat):
SOME (So Others Might Eat), 71 O Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. Link to donate: https://some.org/donate/