06/14/18 — Kelly remembered as a dedicated rescue volunteer

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Kelly remembered as a dedicated rescue volunteer

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 14, 2018 5:50 AM

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Anthony Kelly

MOUNT OLIVE -- Anthony Kelly spent many hours at the Mount Olive Rescue Building.

He spent even more hours over the years working to help others as a member of that volunteer squad.

Kelly will return to that building for the final time today as friends and family gather for his funeral.

A Mount Olive businessman and community servant, Kelly died in Monday afternoon vehicle accident.

He was 55.

Kelly was part of an iconic family in Mount Olive and Wayne County rescue circles.

His father, Bobby, served for many years on the squad as did his late mother, Shirley. His sister, Wendy, was also on the volunteer squad.

It was his parents' involvement with rescue service that led Kelly to first join Faison Rescue. He then joined the Mount Olive Rescue Squad, and for a time, was a volunteer with both squads.

He had served on the search and rescue team and participated in state rescue competitions. At the time of his death, Kelly was still an active member of the Faison squad, completing more than 30 years of service.

He was owner/operator of Kelly's Wrecker Service, and was involved in the ventures of Kelly's Little Mart Inc., begun by his parents.

Danny Keel, who served on the Mount Olive Rescue Squad with Kelly, recalls how glad he was when he saw Kelly show up on a call, particularly if the call involved extricating someone from a crashed vehicle.

Both Keel, who now works as a bailiff, and Ray Brogden, a captain with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and who also served with Kelly, said Kelly was a hard-working and dedicated person.

Keel said he was devastated when he heard about Kelly's death even though they had not been as close in recent years.

"When I heard about it, I still had a special place for Anthony," he said. "We have always known each other. We grew up together. Went to school together."

Keel said he was working in court when he heard the news about Kelly's death.

"All I could do is tear up," he said. "I was like, I hope that is not true. When I found out it was true, it just took my breath to know that he is gone.

"Anthony was one of those kinds of people you don't think anything like that would happen to him."

Keel and Kelly were both on the squad's first-aid team, along with Roger Lane, that captured first place in the state competition. They both also served on the squad's heavy-duty team and were on the town's fire department.

Keel said he and Kelly came along about the same time in the squad.

"I guess you could say we were the two young boys on the squad at the time," he said.

"Both of us were real gung-ho. We went on a lot of calls, and people picked on us. We were always, not really in competition, but we both probably tried to do way more than we should have at that time.

"Anthony was just real good at what he did. He really just picked right up on the extrication part of it. He was just really good with that stuff."

Keel said he used to love to see Kelly come up at a wreck scene because he knew that what Kelly was doing was as good as anybody's.

Kelly was knowledgeable in every area of rescue, but exceptionally so in the area of extrication, Keel said.

"If we had a bad wreck and I saw Anthony coming, that took a lot of pressure off me because he would step right in and take the lead on many extrications," Keel said.

Kelly was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back even though at times he might appear a bit gruff, Keel said.

"But he had a heart of gold," he said. "If I called him and needed something, or if I needed his help, he would always be there. He was just a real dependable person."

Kelly came by that honest because his father has always been the same way, Keel said.

"He was very dedicated to his work and helping others," Brogden said.

"He went right through our squad just like his mom and dad did. He was very devoted to answering calls.

"He was just a hard worker, always wanting to help somebody. Then he got into the wrecker business and as long as I have known him, I have never called him that he didn't come. He was that kind of person."

Kelly was a good friend and a dedicated volunteer, Brogden said.

"I guess that is about as good as you can say about anybody," he said.

Kelly is survived by his wife, Casey Tillman Kelly; a son, Tyler Kelly and wife, Melissa, of Seven Springs; two daughters, Emily Kelly of Surf City and Rhylea Kelly of the home; his father, Bobby Ray Kelly of Mount Olive; two sisters, Phyllis K. Tucker and husband, Billy, and Wendy K. Stroud and husband, Harvey, all of Mount Olive; and several nieces and nephews.

His mother, Shirley Patterson Kelly, passed away in 2015.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to North Carolina Association of Rescue EMS Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1914, Goldsboro, N.C., 27533, or North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation, P.O. Box 68, Bahama, N.C., 27503.