On the night of July 11, 2019, Wally Christopher Kelly, 62, passed away at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was reunited with his father, Wally; his mother, Crissy; brother Michael; grandparents, and many, many dear friends into the arms of our Lord.
He will forever be dearly missed by his son, Beau, his stepchildren Hannah, Ashley, and Parker, his wife Amy, sisters Jennifer (Bill) Ingram of Twin Falls, Idaho; Diane Steinmetz of Boise, Idaho, many nieces and nephews, and dear friends and colleagues.
Wally and I grew up together as neighbors and BEST friends. We shared millions of memories. Our love of sport united us throughout our childhood, junior high, high school and years at Idaho State University.
We spent countless hours in his backyard playing versions of kid’s baseball. We spent more on my driveway playing basketball. His front yard was for football. We played sandlot baseball across the street at Greenacres; organized baseball, Mustang, Bronco and Pony, at city fields. Both of us were always all-stars. We rode bicycles around the city together. We played “ditch-em” throughout our neighborhood.
We played a great deal of “White Rabbit” in the dark of night until nearly getting pinched by a homeowner and ending up in stickery bushes. White Rabbit is played wearing only sneakers, ringing a door bell, and seeing who will remain at the door the longest. We were boyishly competiive at everything!
Our last adventure nearly ended tragically. As we pushed the door bell, apparently the owner was right there — door opened immediately. We had chosen a fenced home for greater challenge. Our only option was right or left into junipers. We laughed all night as we picked stickers from all parts of our scratched, cut and bruised bodies.
We designed a miniature half court in Wally’s garage for one-on-one basketball. His dad gave us a U-shaped railroad bolt that served as the hoop. We attached a net from a desk office mini-basket set. We played for hours and hours and hours using a tennis ball. We would be Jerry West, Clyde Frasier or Earl the Pearl.
We would argue endlessly over rules and claims of cheating. We would share a cold Coke in a bottle from his grandfather’s machine and laugh about our battles.
We attempted our hands at music. Had a guitar and small drum set in his basement. Did our best to play latest Beatles hits of the late 60s. “She loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah …” We drank Merry Cherry Fruit Punch as our adult beverge. Notice neither of us ever published that on our resumes.
I guess our greatest joy was sleeping out, which we did regularly on hot summer nights. Our older homes didn’t have AC. Both of us had basement bedrooms, but it was still hot and stuffy indoors. We slept under the stars most summer evenings.
Need to qualify “sleeping.” We pretended usually to sleep. As soon as the lights in our parent’s room went out, we were off. We roamed streets as only small town boys have the privilege to do. We were very military. Always on point.
We grew up during the Vietnam war. Might be drafted. Boys never knew. We trained how to hide as Special Forces Rangers. Prided ourselves on our stealth and recon tactics. Wally Sr served in WWII. Earned a Purple Heart as a Marine in the Pacific theater — having his toes shot off in battle on Okinawa.
Wally Sr always raised bulldogs in honor of the Corp. Wally and I grew up with Sarge. He loved to swing hanging by his mouth from a deflated football tied by a rope to a tree in the Kelly backyard. Kids would walk by and kick the fence to irritate Sarge. We would run them down, hang ’em over the fence, and scare them pretending Sarge was going to bite them.
Sarge was quite friendly. But they always walked on the other side of the street after their “near death” experience.
As juvenile deliquents, we jumped fences to “steal” green apples from trees. We would eat as many as we could and throw the rest at other friends who also were sleeping out. People like Mike and Mark Falash, the Alston’s, Bell boys and others. We would carry dozens of small, green apples in a made-up pouch using the front of our t-shirt.
I still harbor much guilt from those adventures. Nobody really cared about apples. There were always too many. Yet we also raided gardens. We loved young carrots. We would wipe out a growing crop. Pull them from someone’s garden, turn on their hose to wash them, and eat carrots the rest of the night. Our parents wondered why we were never hungry in the morning.
To all those homeowners, I apologize. Realize today how much work goes into a garden. We must have devasted people. Come out in the morning to find Converse Chuck Taylor shoeprints and no carrots. Boy! We loved summer-time carrots. Sorry about that! Was the worst crime we ever committed.
We got caught once by the police — well, at least Wally did. We didn’t ever really break the law (except above), but loved to pretend police were after us. We were walking down a dark alley when a squad car pulled in behind us. Wally was faster than me and got a head start. I was smarter (LOL). As we turned the corner, I dove into bushes. He kept running. Police tracked him down. I escaped capture!!!
I remained in the bushes for about an hour. When I crept back to the house, he and his mom met me outside. She was upset of course. Police had brought him home. “What were you two doing?” We remained straight and true to our cover story, as would good soldiers — “Thirsty! Wanted to go to 7-11 for a Slurpee.”
Crissy didn’t rat us out to Papa Kelly or Daddy Goold. They would have kicked our butts. Wally’s mom was a saint. She loved both of us greatly.
The truth is we knew where some young ladies were sleeping out. We were on a Night Mission. Didn’t make it that evening — were successful on future nights. We were good kids. Hooking up with girls in our day meant listening to the radio and talking story.
Kissing a girl was quite scary to me. My real first kiss came from beautiful, green-eyed PH. Wally and I both loved her deeply. I got to know her first. She taught me how to respect and date a woman. As I was simply too young (15) to be in a serious relationship, she ended up going out with Wally. I knew I was out of my league, but always envied him. PH remains a deep love of mine. Thank you both!
Spent our summer evenings cruising Pocatello in a three-some with Chris Frost. What a great coach and teacher Chris has become. Chris had an amazing car. Stick shift. Fast. Totally mean! They knew all the hot women as well. They took me, as I was a good athlete and friend.
I was of course always the geek. Kept me in the back seat of the car. Many nights they would leave me at our favorite taco shop as they headed out with ladies. I was their younger brother. They were men. I was a boy. Both always had my back. Two great heroes of mine!
Water skied often at American Falls reservoir. Daredevils on water. Both of us loved to jump wake as high as possible. His grandfather taught us to fly fish in Ketchum, outside Sun Valley. Early morning wake-ups, walking miles in our hip boots, caught a mess of fish. Go every summer. We would sing “I Can See Clearly Now,” by Johnny Nash, at the top of our lungs sitting on the back of the tail gate of the old, beat-up pickup to pass the time on the long, dusty ride back to the cabin.
Always competing. Who got first fish of the day? Biggest? Who caught the most? Who fell more slippin’ on rocks? (LOL) We both lost a lot of flies trying to drop our lines into a sneaky little fish hideout. Wally would cuss more than me. Always won that one. His dad was a Jarhead.
Wally was more sophisticated — in everything. Was the baby of his family. I was first-born of mine. He was my mentor and life teacher. I was both a geek and nerd. He was worldly. I was the scientist and smart guy. Wally didn’t put as much time into school or classes.
His dad told us often, “Not what you know, but who you know.” This explains Wally’s life. He knew everyone; he made people smile; he knew how to bring happiness to others; he always had a wonderful story and was dedicated to helping others.
I was the bookworm. I also ended up being the better athlete. He was a very good athlete. I was great. As he had lots of friends, his time was divided. I was an odd boy and have always been a quiet, lonely man. I spent more time alone on the basketball court and in the classroom. Today, I’m a former pro athlete and now a computer programmer.
I’ve been successful. He is a hero. I’m so blessed to have grow up with Wally Kelly. My heart is sad, extremely sad, and broken today.
Wally, my brother, thank you for mentoring and guiding me. Love you deeply and always. Hope you can see clearly now!
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