Michael P. Kelly Sr. (“Mike”) died on Jan. 10, 2022 after a long battle with gallbladder cancer. He was 65 years old. Born in St. Francis Hospital on Nov. 6, 1956, eight minutes after his identical twin brother John (“good looking guy”), Mike was raised in humble beginnings in the Forty Acres section of town, just one block up the street from the family business, Kelly’s Logan House. His sister, Mary Ann Kelly MacDonald (“the smartest and funniest of the litter”), joined the family 4 years later.
Mike attended St. Ann’s School and St. Edmond’s Academy before enrolling in the Tower Hill School in 7th grade. Mike graduated from Tower Hill in 1975. He was class president and a starting defensive tackle in the Blue Gold football game. He did not lose a dual meet wrestling match his last two years of high school, and was state champion in the shot put for two years. Many of Mike’s records remain.
Mike and his twin brother continued their football and track activities at Columbia University, where both lettered in football and track. Mike co-captained the track team his senior year, and was awarded the Gustave Jaeger Prize for athletics. Mike also started boxing in his youth and was an undefeated amateur. In his last fight in the ring he defeated the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Champ in an exhibition.
At Dickinson Law School Mike met the love of his life, Deanna (“the far better lawyer”). They married right before graduation and both returned to Wilmington to practice law. They also raised two children, Joanna and Patrick (“The perfect kids and God’s gift to us—smarter and more athletic —with big hearts”).
As an attorney, Mike practiced law for 37 years, including a brief tenure at Hercules Incorporated, where he became General Counsel of the Resins Business and was awarded the Aqualon Achievement Prize. Mike then returned to private practice and served as Chairman of McCarter and English from 2009 to 2019, stepping down after the firm achieved three straight record years of earnings. Mike’s passion was to try cases. He took on all comers and was very proud of his trial record. Mike was a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, received numerous accolades from the National Law Journal and Law 360, and was consistently listed among the “Best Lawyers of America”. Mike also taught as an adjunct at the UVA Law Trial Advocacy College, where he had the singular privilege of teaching his daughter. He represented such notables as “Smoking” Joe Frazier, Jay-Z, Diane Von Furstenberg, the New York Giants, and several monarchs. But he was most proud of his pro bono service, which he undertook “under the radar”, as he shunned recognition for “what we all are obliged to do”. Mike will be best remembered as a “Force for Good.”
Mike was also a comedian and popular speaker. He often brought his humor, always respectfully, to the court room. He emceed many dinners, almost all of which benefitted charitable organizations. Mike never said No to a charity.
Mike was a member of many charitable and civic organizations and a lifetime member of the NAACP. He had a strong faith and was a Knight of Malta and Knight of Columbus. Mike was also a member of many prestigious clubs, most notably Costco and BJ Wholesalers. At the time of his death, he was on the waiting list for Sam’s Wholesale Club. Mike was preceded in death by his father, John D. Kelly III and mother Loretta T. Kelly, as well as twin brothers Albert and Joseph, and his grandmother, Eunice Azar. He is survived by his wife, Deanna Henderson Kelly, and two children, Joanna Gerard Kelly, Esq. and Michael Patrick Kelly, Jr. He is also survived by his brother Dr. John D. Kelly IV (and his wife Marie) and sister Mary Ann Kelly MacDonald, Esq. (and her husband Michael), as well as nieces, Dr. Ann Marie Kelly and Mary Kelly Boling, and nephew, John D. Kelly Hogan. Mike also leaves behind a legacy of faith, love, humor and undying service to those in need.
A visitation will be offered on Thursday, January 13 from 2-8 pm at the McCrery & Harra Funeral Home, 3924 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803. Overflow parking will be available at the adjacent Brandywine YMCA. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered the following day, Friday January 14, at 1 pm at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, 2013 Gilpin Ave., Wilmington, DE 19806. Interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Little Sisters of the Poor, 185 Salem Church Rd., Newark 19713; The Ministry of Caring 115 E. 14th St. Wilm. Del.19801; Limen House-Triad (limende.org); or the NAACP (naacpldf.org).