Kelly was born Thomas Edward Kelly at The Flower Hospital, at Fifth and 106th, New York City, on March 5, 1924 to Edward Thomas Kelly, an Alderman for the City of New York, and Anastasia Ceciiia Kane. In 1929, his family moved to St. Francis Xavier Parish in the Bronx.
His natural academic abilities earned him a scholarship to the private, Jesuit school, Regis High School (New York City). He was a 1941 graduate of Regis where he first trod the hardwoods under the tutelage of the legendary Regis coach, Don Kennedy. He is the only Regis graduate to have played professional basketball.
In 1942, at age 18, Kelly was sworn into the United States Army Air Forces as an Aviation Cadet. He was trained in the United States Army Air Corps as a B-17 flying officer and commissioned a Second Lieutenant Pilot in 1944, assigned to the 486th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 833rd Bomber Squadron of the 3rd Division of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, stationed in Sudbury, Suffolk, England. Lt. Kelly flew twenty-nine combat missions over Germany, winning five battle stars and the air medal with oak leaf clusters.
Post War College Career
At the conclusion of his tour of duty, Tom Kelly pursued an engineering degree at the uptown campus (in the Bronx) of New York University. under the G.I. Bill of Rights. He graduated in three years and was elected to Tau Beta Pi, the national honorary scholastic fraternity in the College of Engineering, the engineering school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa.
While at N.Y.U., his love of basketball equaled his thirst for education and as a “walk on” the 22-year old bomber pilot veteran made the varsity team at N.Y.U. which featured all-time N.Y.U. and N.B.A. greats, Dolph Schayes, Ray Lumpp, Sid Tannenbaum and Frank Mangiapane, among other talented players. At NYU Kelly was All-Metropolitan basketball forward of a team that reached the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) final game in 1948. In 1991, Tom was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame at N.Y.U
In 1947, Tom married Irene McGuire, also a Bronx native, at Our Lady’s Chapel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York. Irene predeceased him.
Professional Basketball Career
After graduation from the N.Y.U. College of Engineering in 1948, Tom Kelly postponed his career in engineering when he was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and farmed out to the Hartford Hurricanes in their American Basketball League. After leading the league in scoring, he was recalled to the Celtics and was high scorer in the Celtics victory over the Fort Wayne Pistons, and tagged by the Boston sports media as a contender for “Rookie of the Year.”
Engineering Career & Private Life
After the birth of his third child, Kelly hung up the sneakers and spent the next four decades building a successful business in commercial heating, ventilating and air conditioning sales in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County.
In 1954, Tom Kelly moved his young family to Syosset, Long Island. In Syosset, he served as Vice President and then President of the fledgling Board of Education for Central School District No. 2. As Board president, Tom was instrumental in the building of Syosset High School, the first modern centrally air conditioned high school to open on Long Island.
Career advancement with The Trane Company relocated his family to Schenectady, New York, in 1958. Yet barely a year later, Tom Kelly returned to the tri-state area when he assumed management of the New York Office of The Trane Company. He and his first wife, Irene, raised six sons and four daughters in their home on Shippan Point, Stamford, Connecticut. Tom Kelly retired to Santa Barbara, California, in 1993.
Tom is survived by his wife, Joanie, and six sons and four daughters John of New York City, Jed of New Rochelle, Thomas of New Canaan, CT, Christopher of Stamford, Ct.,Matthew of Nyack, NY, Kirk of Lakewood, NY, Ann of Milford, CT, Irene of New City, NY, Stacy of New York City, and Deirdre Shaffer of Stamford, CT; and fourteen granddaughters, eleven grandsons, and two great grandchildren. He is also survived by a step son, Jon Williamson of Los Angeles, a step daughter, Lizbeth Williams of Los Angeles, and a step grandson.
Over the course of his active life, Tom was an avid golfer, sailor and tennis player. He was a member of the Birnam Wood Golf Club, the Stamford Yacht Club and the New York Athletic Club.