WWII veteran celebrates 101st birthday


Don Kelly chuckled at the idea that Woodside Village Care Center in Mount Gilead had a Car Show to celebrate his 101st birthday on May 19.

There were 63 cars entered into the show, and Kelly posed for a photo by a Ford Model T, which he said was “a little newer” than the Model T he had as his first car.

Kelly grew up in Marion County and attended a one-room school in Marion County. After serving in the Marines during World War II, he worked at Cycon in Marion, building truck bodies for many years. He and his wife, Betty, moved to their farm in Morrow County in 1959 with their children: Susan, Debbie and Brad. All three graduated from Cardington-Lincoln High School. Betty passed away in 1993.

Kelly enjoyed birthday visits on May 19 with his children after looking over the car show lineup. While Kelly visited with his son-in-law Dave Shirk, his daughter Susan Shirk spoke with pride of the accomplishments of Kelly’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

His granddaughter Dawn Ruehrmund teaches third grade in Cardington, granddaughter Diana McClure teaches at the middle school in Cardington, while his granddaughter Kelly Lopez is a nurse in Galion. His grandson Joseph Shirk lives in Marblehead on Lake Erie. Dawn’s grandson Cade and granddaughter Tess are attending college, and Brad’s son Douglas has two sons, Myles and Corbyn. Susan Shirk added Diana’s daughter MaKenna recently graduated from college, and her son, Merek McClure will be joining the Marines.

Military service is a significant part of Kelly’s life. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on Oct. 5, 1942, when he was 19 years old and signed up to serve through the duration of the national emergency (World War II).

Kelly didn’t talk about his time in the service, other than to say he was in the Marines in World War II. Susan Shirk said her dad never talked about his time in the service with them. They believe he saw a great deal of death and some terrible things he preferred not to talk about.

The following record of his service in World War II is posted outside his room at Woodside Village:

• Training: His training was at Paris Island, South Carolina, and he received qualification as an expert rifleman. He was promoted to private first-class on May 11, 1943.

• Units: Units included 1st Marine Raider Battalion, First Marine Raider Regiment March 16, 1943; (1st Marine Raider Battalion was organized in January 1942 and disbanded just two years later. The Raider Battalions were developed as a Marine Corps special missions force, based on the success of the British Commandos and Chinese guerillas operating in northern China. From Guadalcanal and the Makin Atoll to Bougainville and New Georgia, lightly armed and intensely trained Raiders had a three-fold mission: They spearheaded larger amphibious landings on beaches thought to be inaccessible. They conducted raids requiring surprise and high speed, and they operated as guerilla units for lengthy periods behind enemy lines.) and Reinforced 1st Marine Amphibious Corps, First Battalion, 4th Marines, 6th division Feb. 1, 1944.

• Action: He participated in action against the enemy on New Georgia Island, British Solomon Islands from July 4 to Aug. 29, 1943. At Guadalcanal from Jan. 24 to March 17, 1944. On March 20, 1944, he participated in seizure of Emirau Island. He also participated in action against the enemy at Guam, Marianas Islands, July 21 through August 27, 1944. On July 27, 1944, he was wounded in action.

• Special citations entitled to wear: Battle Participation Star for participation in “Consolidation of Solomon Islands.” Purple Heart awarded for injuries received July 27, 1944.

• Kelly was honorably discharged on Oct. 5, 1945. with three years completed service.

Kelly said he has no regrets or complaints other than the fact his knees keep him from walking as much as he would like. He enjoys comparing stories with Esther Hudnell, who lives across the hall, and celebrated her 101st birthday in April.

Woodside Village social worker Mallory Dougherty said Kelly is very aware and his mind is sharp. He enjoys visiting with his family and other Woodside residents.

When asked what the secret is to living a long life, Kelly said, “I just take it day by day.”

Alberta Stojkovic is a correspondent for The Morrow County Sentinel. She can be reached at [email protected].

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