October 10, 1995
Folks at the First Christian church are planning something nice next Friday for Leroy (Speedy) Kelley. It's to celebrate his 80th birthday and yes, it falls on Friday the 13th, but let's all hope that is not a bad omen. Speedy deserves only good things.
I suppose there may be some out there who have not heard him called by that nickname, so let me explain. My first awareness of it was from 1931 to 1935 when Leroy was a tall, slim soda jerk at Brownie's Drug Store on the west side of the square and I was just learning how to mix malts at our family's City Drug Store on the north side of the square. He was called Speedy because that is the antithesis of everything about him. Then, as now, he moved at a slow, easy gait. His speech pattern may have qualified him for membership in STOW (Slow Talkers of America), but that legendary organization only existed in the comic minds of Bob and Ray, so we'll never know. It was not meant to be a term of derision; "Speedy" just seemed to fit.
It's good that the Christian church people are preparing to honor him. Speedy has spent a lifetime in service to others and an 80th birthday salute is a fine way of recognizing that. The event will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. next Friday in the church Fellowship hall, and all of us are invited. The timing is such that we can work it into our lunch hour. The entire community is welcome to attend, not just the church family.
Leroy has been a member of the Christian church here since 1929, when the Kelley's came to Perry. He served as church treasurer from 1965 to 1992 and was on the stewardship-finance committee for all those years. He still serves in an advisory capacity. Beyond his service to his church, however, he has done numerous charitable works anonymously that benefit many in the community, not just members of his church.
He was born in Kirksville, Mo., the son of Dr. Orval L. Kelley and Olinda B. Kelley. The family lived in Phoenix and Prescott, Ariz., Riverside, Calif., Norman, Clinton, Guthrie and Vinita, all in Oklahoma, before moving to Perry. The Kelleys lived for a while in an apartment over Wacker's 5- & 10-cent store on the east side of the square. Many people knew his mother as the alteration lady at the Famous Department Store on the south side of the square, where she worked with Mrs. Fannie Hunefelt, and later at Gottlieb's Vogue, just up the street from the Famous. Mrs. Kelley began working as an alteration lady with Mrs. Lilah Marcy, who had a shop on the mezzanine of the City Drug Store in the 1930s. After that Lilah and Olinda did alterations in Gay Marcy's Used Furniture Store on the south side.
Speedy has had more than one career. He was a 20-year man in the Army, retiring from military service in 1961, then taking a position with the U.S. Postal Service at the Perry post office. He was superintendent of postal operations at the Perry post office when he again retired, in 1980. Graduating from Perry high school in 1933, he worked for Brownie's until 1935 and then attended Hill's Business College in Oklahoma City for a year. He was a member of the Oklahoma National Guard 1932-35 and 1937-38. Leroy was called up for Army service in March 1941 and in 1944 he was a member of the 149th Engineer Maintenance Company which served briefly in France and Belgium. The unit was deployed to Okinawa in the Pacific in 1945.
After five years in the Army, he was separated from service in 1946, then enlisted in the Regular Army. He was assigned to Headquarters of the 2nd Infantry division at Fort Lewis, Wash. In 1950 he accompanied the division to Korea, landing at Pusan and then moving to Kunu-Ri in far North Korea. He was injured in a motor vehicle accident in December and was evacuated by air to Brooke Army Hospital at San Antonio, Texas. He later served at Fort Sill and Fort Hood, Texas, until 1954 when he was with the 45th Engineer Battalion in Germany. Kelley was with the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters through all of 1960, and in 1961 he retired from military service with the rank of chief warrant officer, W-3.
Speedy has two brothers, Howard, of Dallas, and Calvin, of Perry; and a sister, Dorothy Kelley-Hastings, of Bradenton, Fla. The Christian church is hoping for a big turnout Friday between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., so let's all get our calendars marked and show up for this special occasion. Happy birthday, Speedy!