April 18, 1935 – Dec. 24, 2016
He was a humble man by nature, but John E. “Jack” Kelly was proud of his 32 years of service to the Buffalo Police Department.
Mr. Kelly was even prouder when one of his sons, Kevin, his son-in-law, Jerry Sullivan, and Meghan Sullivan, one of his nine grandchildren, all followed him into law enforcement careers.
“He pinned her badge on Meghan when she was sworn in as a Buffalo Police officer in 2014, and I know that was one of the proudest moments in my father’s life,” said Kevin Kelly, a special agent with the U.S. Homeland Security Department. He noted that Jerry Sullivan is also a Buffalo Police officer.
Jack Kelly, known for his ability to bring volatile situations to peaceful ends, died after an illness in South Buffalo Mercy Hospital, surrounded by his five children. He was 81.
The South Buffalo native was a veteran of the Marines who earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees during his police career. He also volunteered his time at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, at the South Buffalo Community Table soup kitchen and as a youth football coach.
He retired as a lieutenant from the Buffalo Police force in 1995. Family members said he was an old-style cop who walked a beat, made a point of getting to know people in the neighborhoods he patrolled and always looked for ways to prevent dangerous situations from ending in violence.
“He treated people with respect. He believed in talking to people instead of using force,” Kevin Kelly said. “Over the years, I’ve had many people come up to me and say, ‘Is your dad Lt. Jack Kelly? Let me buy you a beer. He is a very good man.’ ”
Born and raised in South Buffalo, he attended St. Martin’s Elementary School and graduated from Bishop Timon High School and Buffalo State College. He later earned master’s degrees from Buffalo State and the University of Virginia. He also was a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He strongly encouraged his children and grandchildren to get as much education as they could.
He joined the Marine Corps after high school and traveled the world as part of the crew of the Marine vessel USS Salem. He also spent time as a member of an elite Marine Corps Unit known as Reconnaissance Unit 2.
After his military service, Mr. Kelly spent time working at a steel plant before joining the Buffalo Police. He won many honors for his police work, including a heroism award in the 1980s for rushing into a burning Babcock Street home to rescue a woman who was trapped inside.
He also spent many years as one of the supervisors of a contingent of police officers who worked security at Buffalo Bills football games.
He married the former Maureen Meegan in 1956. She died in 1999.
“My dad always told us, ‘Be humble and work hard,’ ” Kevin Kelly recalled. “That was how he lived his life.”
Mr. Kelly enjoyed reading the morning newspaper and doing crossword puzzles.
He is survived by two daughters, Sharon Hanley and Katy Sullivan; three sons, Timothy, Patrick and Kevin; two sisters Bernatta Kelly and Mary Perschy, and two brothers, Thomas and James.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the Holy Family worship site of Our Lady of Charity Church, 1901 South Park Ave..