KANSAS — Earl ‘Al’ Allen Kelley passed in peace on Aug. 13, 2016, at the age of 83 after a celebrated life well-lived.
Al was born Dec. 24, 1932, in Dearing, Kan., the son of Frank and Bertice (McColm) Kelley. He married his beloved Barbara ‘Barb’ Ann Hampton on April 10, 1955, in Oskaloosa, Kan. She survives of the home. Other survivors include: a daughter, Kirsten Reecy of Tremont, Ill.; two sons: Allen Kelley and his wife Janet of Lawrence, Kan., and Jeff Kelley of Portland, Oregon. Al also leaves behind one sister, Mavis Clark of Grandview Missouri, one brother, Larry Kelley of Peoria; 11 grandchildren; three step-grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brother, Dean Kelley.
Al attended the University of Kansas where he was a member of Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He played men’s basketball for the Jayhawks on the freshman squad in 1951, and the varsity squad from 1952-1954. He was a member of the 1952 team that won the NCAA National Championship. At Kansas Al made All-Big Seven in 1953 & 1954. In 1953 he was initiated into the Sachem chapter of the Omicron Delta Kappa fraternity. In the 1954 season, he led the Jayhawks in free throw shooting with 86.2 percent, which at the time ranked second in the nation. That same year he participated in the East-West All-Star game. Al then joined Caterpillar’s college graduate training program and played for its AAU team. Caterpillar traveled to Rio de Janeiro in 1954, where it won the All-World Championship. For two years (1956 & 1957), Al served in the U.S. Air Force. While with the Air Force AAU team in 1957, he won the AAU National Championship in Denver, Colo. He repeated the feat in 1958 after rejoining Caterpillar’s team. In 1960, Al was selected to play for the United States Olympic Team after Caterpillar fell to the College All-Stars in the playoff game. The Olympic team went on to win the gold medal in Rome. His favorite memories of the Olympic experience were watching an 18-year-old Cassius Clay dominate the boxing scene, and of the American flag being raised while our National Anthem played during the presentation ceremony. In 1984 Al was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. In 1985 he was inducted into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame. Al worked for Caterpillar Tractor Company for four-and-a-half decades. He retired in 1999 as the manager of the parts department at the Denver plant after a career that spanned almost as many accolades (and relocations, the family recounts) as years. Al was elected to the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2010 he was elected to the National Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, as a member of the 1960 Olympic team. In 2013 he was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Al will be fondly remembered by family and friends in many ways: As a loving and devoted husband to Barb, and as an inspiring and adoring patriarch to his children and grandchildren. As an admired and loyal friend. As a proud patriot and Air Force Veteran. As a gold medal Olympian, and a member of the 1952 KU champion basketball team. As a shining example of the benefits of hard work and perseverance. His character framed his accomplishments beautifully. He often said, ‘I’m a Kansan by birth, but a Jayhawk by the Grace of God!’
God Speed & Rock Chalk, Al. There’s no place like home.
‘Far above the distant humming of the busy town, reared against the dome of heaven. Looks s[he] proudly down.’
A celebration of life will be held in honor of Earl Allen ‘Al’ Kelley at the Adams Alumni Center (1266 Oread Avenue, Lawrence KS~KU Campus) on Saturday, Aug. 27 from 2-5 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made in Al’s name to KU Endowment or Grace Hospice, and sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th St., Lawrence, KS 66044. Online condolences may be sent to: www.warrenmcelwain.com.