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Cecil L. Kelly

Thursday, August 15, 2019
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Cecil Lawrence Kelly passed away peacefully at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg, Missouri, on July 9, 2019, having lived 88 years, 5 months and 28 days.

He was born Jan. 11, 1931, in Hamilton County, the third of nine children born to Neal and Cloyse (Hicks) Kelly.

He professed his faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and was baptized at the First Baptist Church in Hamilton. This would mark the beginning of a life-long commitment of service to the church. As a faithful Southern Baptist, he served as a deacon, a church council member, a youth sponsor, a Sunday School teacher and a song leader. Because of his firm belief in Christian education, he continued to study God’s Word well into his eighties.

Cecil was also a talented musician who thoroughly enjoyed bluegrass, old country tunes and the hymns of the church. As a boy, he learned to play the guitar from his father, but favored the mandolin later in life. Though he never learned to read music, he played beautifully “by ear,” having memorized many of the hymns in the Baptist Hymnal and most of the classics played by bluegrass and country bands. He loved music whether he was playing alone or to a crowd and believed in the tremendous power of music to heal and inspire.

At the age of 17, Cecil quit school and joined the Air Force, eager to see the world. During his four years of service to his country, he was trained as a radioman and stationed in such exotic places as Dayton, Ohio, Biloxi, Mississippi, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and finally in Rapid City, South Dakota. He attained the rank of Tech Sergeant and, like so many veterans, considered his years of service as “the greatest and worst time of my life!”

During his lifetime Cecil had a number of professions. He was a printer, a mechanic, a business owner, a house parent at a boy’s ranch and a children’s home, manager of a convenience store and a seafood sales associate at Walmart. This last job he held until he was 80 years old!

He loved to work and when he wasn’t working he was an avid woodworker and violin maker. He enjoyed making bowls, candlesticks, goblets and various other items, not in order to sell them but to give them away. Every child and grandchild, every neighbor and friend was given a piece of Cecil’s handiwork.

On July 19, 1953, Cecil married the love of his life, Ruth Wagner. They had known each other since childhood, but the little cotton-headed girl from Pottsville grew up and captured his heart. They were married on a Sunday morning at the pastor’s home before church services by Ruth’s uncle, Rev. Scott Wright. Following the ceremony, they attended worship service where they were properly introduced as husband and wife to an enthusiastic congregation at the First Baptist Church of Hamilton!

In retelling the story of their marriage Cecil would say, “I had to borrow $100 to get married and I’ve been in debt ever since!” Their life together would span a week shy of 66 years. They would welcome three children into their lives – Paul, Don and Patricia.

Cecil is survived by his wife Ruth of Cole Camp, Missouri; his sons Paul Kelly (Sandy Schlesselman) of Cole Camp and Don Kelly (Cathy) of Livermore, Colorado; and son-in-law Wallie Schoonover of Gunnison, Colorado.

The grief of his passing will also be profoundly felt by Cecil and Ruth’s nine grandchildren – Noah Kelly (Lauryn), Jared Kelly (Naudalia), Rhiannon Venit (Mike), Courtney Young (Noah), Chris Young (Darian), Nick Kelly (Christine, fiancée), Laura Kelly (Tanner), Garrett Schoonover and Ely Schoonover (Stacy); 11 great-grandchildren; three sisters and two brothers, Nena Harden of College Station, Myrtle Turner of Kyle, Carrol Kelly of Kyle, Robert Kelly (Barbara) of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Harrol Kelly (Ann) of Carrollton; and brother-in-law Wayne Nickell of Fort Worth. He will also be deeply missed by a special family friend, Brian Turk of Fredericksburg.

Cecil was preceded in death by his daughter, Patricia Lynn Schoonover; his parents, Neal and Cloyse Kelly; a great-grandson, Wyatt Schnoonover; one brother, Albert Bruce Kelly; and two sisters, Addie Schmeltekopf and Mary Lois Nickell.

A memorial service will be held in the Youth and Family Life Center of First Baptist Church in Hamilton Aug. 17 at 10:30 a.m. followed by interment in Oakwood Cemetery. A lunch will follow the interment service.

Honorary pallbearers will be Cecil’s grandchildren.