Walter “Walt” Avery Kelley, 80, of Tonasket died peacefully at his home on Nov. 21, 2011 under Hospice care. He was born on Feb. 6, 1931 in Worland, Wyo., to Elmo James and Winnie Pearl Kelley. He was raised in Wyoming until 1946 when his family moved to Sunnyside, Wash., where he finished high school (class of 1949).
He joined the Navy in 1949 and served in the Korean War on the USS DeHaven Destroyer. During leave on Dec. 21, 1950 he married his high school sweetheart Betty Felicijan.
After the military he received a degree in Education from Washington State University. His first job was the Tonasket Vo-Ag instructor and FFA adviser. Very soon after his arrival in Tonasket (1957), he lost his first born son to cancer. To his amazement, the Tonasket community rallied to support his family through this tragic time. That touched him so deeply that he fell in love with the people that helped them so much. They then made Tonasket their permanent home and never looked back nor regretted that decision for the next 54 years.
He purchased his first orchard in 1963. After nine years of teaching he made a decision to leave his Vo-Ag position for a job with HR Spinner Company as a field man. This lasted only one year and he went back to teach as a sixth grade teacher for 19 additional years.
He rarely missed any of his kids’ extra-curricular activities and family outings were plentiful and memorable.
He retired from his teaching role in 1986 and became a full time orchardist farming cherries, apples and pears. This created an opportunity to spend winters on the road. He really enjoyed his travels as a “snowbird” to Hemet, Calif. While there he spent countless hours painting, golfing, visiting siblings and slipping in some occasional world travel.
His life changed suddenly in 1999 when he was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma with less than a two-year prognosis of survival. On a wing and lots of prayers he and his loving bride together embarked on a long process to prove that there is always hope. Throughout this journey he discovered how well a positive attitude can heal and nurture. On part of this road he encountered a near-death experience that was later published in the local paper called “Modern Day Lazarus” where he saw what awaited him after death This strengthened his faith and gave him further inspiration to mentor and nurture others in need along the way.
He became an email fan and connected to even more people. He loved to give updates maintaining his role of teacher by continually grading his health. He made the grade most of the time with even an occasional A+. However, those that know him best knew he really loved F’s. That is, his philosophy was the three most important things in life are all F’s: FAITH – FAMILY – FRIENDS.
He made it nearly 12 years on this journey and rarely lost his positive attitude and never lost his faith!
He is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Betty; son, Dan (grandchildren: Kris and Lindsay) of Gulf Port, Miss.; son, Jim spouse Lynne (grandchildren: Ryan and Ashlyn) of Kennewick; son, Dave spouse Teria (grandchildren: Jeremy, Taylor, Tammy, Brenda and Rick) of East Wenatchee; daughter, Katie spouse Kimmo Nissinen (grandchild Seija) of Seattle; sister, Laura of Clovis, Calif.; brother, Jerry of Riverside, Calif.; six great grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his son, Michael; parents, Elmo and Winnie and step mother, Helen.
The family invites you to please visit the website of Bergh Funeral Service (Click Here) to read the full obituary, sign the on-line guest book, and to share your thoughts if desired under “recent obituaries” Walt Kelley.
A Memorial Mass was held on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 at 11 a.m. at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Tonasket with Father David Kuttner, presiding. A reception and time of sharing followed the mass at the Parish Hall.