HOLMES BEACH, Fla. — Kenneth William Kelley, LCDR USN Retired, of Holmes Beach, Fla., died on September 1, 2020, at the age of 86. Ken passed away peacefully at his home.
Ken was born in 1933 in the small coal mining town of Pleasantview, WV. He grew up in nearby Rivesville, WV, where, at age 10, he began working several early morning jobs to help support his family. He delivered newspapers, trapped muskrat and mink, and hunted rabbit and squirrel. After high school, Ken worked for a short time at the coal mine company store and at Packard Electric in Warren, Ohio, before receiving his military draft notice to fight in the Korean War.
Ken enlisted in the US Navy in 1953, where he served and thrived for 23 years, beginning as a Seaman (E-1) and retiring as Lieutenant Commander (O-4). Ken married Maxine Cunningham shortly after joining the Navy and they had two daughters, Carrie and Mary. The Navy trained Ken in aviation electronics, working on the WWII TBM-3, twin engine seaplanes, helicopters, the last operational Corsairs in the Navy, and in later years, the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) planes and F-8 fighter jets. He trained, worked hard and was selected for promotion to Chief Petty Officer (E-7) in just 7 years after his enlistment, and 3 years later, Ken was selected for promotion to Commissioned Officer (he was a “Mustang”). April 1963 he completed Aviation Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Pensacola, Fla.. This promotion to Ensign saw Ken assigned to Adak, Alaska as the Maintenance Officer, and Wild Life Conservation Officer for the Aleutian Wildlife Conservation Refuge. By chance, Ken was in Kodiak when the tidal wave hit after the 9.2 magnitude earthquake (largest ever to hit North America) occurred in the Prince William Sound on March 28, 1964. Ken and team worked quickly to restore the Navy’s Ground Control radar enabling relief aircraft to land during this devastation and was awarded a Navy Achievement medal for his efforts. In 1967 Ken was transferred to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, where he ended his Navy career in 1976. His assignments there included the Test Pilot School (TPS), Air Development Squadron 8 (VXN-8), and Naval Aviation Logistics Command (NALC). He received two Navy Achievement medals while at Pax River, and he managed to fly in the supersonic F-8 earning his 1000 mph pin.
After retiring from the Navy, Ken began his second career at ManTech in Lexington Park, Md., as a Logistics Engineer. Within three years he was promoted to Technical Director, Assistant Executive Director, and then Executive Director. During these early years at ManTech, Ken met and married Margaret, gaining two more daughters, Debbi and Kathy. Ken spent 17 years at ManTech, retiring for medical reasons in 1993 as an Executive Vice-President, and President of ManTech Engineering Technical Services Company (METS).
Ken and Margaret moved to Anna Maria Island in Florida, where they did everything except retire. They bought 5 vacation rental condos, built two beautiful island homes, and even owned and managed a laundromat. When Ken retired, for the third time, in 2006, he took up chainsaw carving and created the tiki statues he named the Four-Toes collection. All 15 of the statues are now scattered around the globe living with family and friends. He bought, refurbished and repaired golf carts, helping many stranded golf-cart drivers on the island. Ken’s last endeavor was painting faces on the many coconuts he picked up on his daily golf cart spins around the island, and then selling them at local establishments.
Throughout his life, Ken grew and learned from the many wonderful people he met, and he took every opportunity to help teach and raise up others. Ken’s family and friends will miss his kindness, generosity, and artistic flair.
Ken was preceded in death by his parents: Carris Dwayne Kelley (Bob) and Dolly Mae Horvwalt Kelley, brother Charles (Bobby) and sister Nancy Henderson. Ken is survived by his wife, Margaret Kelley; sisters: Bonnie Kelley and Lisa Turner; daughters: Carrie McMillan (Arthur), Mary Kruse (Mark), Debbi Grenier, and Kathy Fisher (Sean); grandchildren: Kelley Kruse, Missy Megginson (RayJ), Carrie Allen (Dean), Haley Gonzalez (Daniel), Abigail Grenier, and Jackson Fisher; great-grandchildren: Sadie Megginson, Darby Megginson, Zoey Allen, Kelley Sue Allen, and Nathan Reid; and several cousins, nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at Ford Funeral Home in Ken’s hometown, Rivesville, WV later this fall.
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