PACIFIC BEACH, Calif. — William James Kelley, 93, formerly of Northumberland, Pa., died peacefully Friday, May 30, 2014, at home in Pacific Beach surrounded by his children.
His beloved wife, Virginia Frances Kelley, daughter of Tomaso and Mary (Bruno) Cellitti, had passed away 31 years earlier.
Mr. Kelley was born in 1921 in Leetonia, Pa., a son of Frank J. Kelley and Bertha Martha (Schwab) Kelley. He grew up in Northumberland, where he met and married Virginia in 1947.
Graduating from Northumberland High School in the midst of the Depression in 1938, Mr. Kelley never went without work. His jobs included brakeman on the Pennsylvania Railroad and clerk in the Pennsylvania Legislature. He retired as a financial executive from Merck & Co. in 1984.
Mr. Kelley was president of the Shikellamy School Board in 1965, past master of the Masons, Eureka Lodge No. 404, and served many posts in Northumberland’s Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church.
Always a proud and patriotic American, on the day after Pearl Harbor, Mr. Kelley visited the recruiting office of every branch of the armed services to enlist, only to be rejected by each. Not one to be deterred, he traveled to Philadelphia and finagled his way into the Marine Corps.
Through the V12 officer training program, Mr. Kelley attended the University of Redlands until being assigned to a regiment preparing for the invasion of Iwo Jima. Mr. Kelley, a corporal and radio operator, led his squadron onto the beach in one of the first waves. Wounded twice, by mortar fire, and then, while being borne on a stretcher, shot through the neck, he was awarded the Purple Heart Medal. Undergoing surgery on a hospital ship while attacked by kamikazes, he grittily recovered. He returned to Iwo Jima for the 50th anniversary of the battle.
He is survived by one daughter, Susan M. Kelley; two sons, William J. Kelley III and daughter-in-law, Pamela Kelley, and Brian D. Kelley; two grandsons, Devin and Gavin Sanders; and one great-granddaughter, Jayden Sanders.
He was preceded in death by his sister, Mrs. Laura Bollinger.
He was buried on June 4 with full Marine Corps honors in Miramar National Cemetery.