Harold Everett Kelly: 1923-2020


Harold Everett Kelly, longtime Chehalis resident and business owner, died November 16, 2020 in Centralia, Wash.

Harold was born November 20, 1923 in Milton Ore., the first child of Zoe Marie (Whitlow) and Andrew Ballard Kelly. In his youth, his family moved several times: first to Baker and then Clatskanie, Ore., then Adams County, Idaho, then San Jose, and Idaho once more, where he spent several happy years among extended family on his grandfather’s stock ranch near the community of Bear. He worked a term in the CCC before moving with his family in 1939 to property on the Middle Fork of the Newaukum, south of Chehalis. Harold attended Chehalis High School for junior and part of senior year, then enlisted in the Navy in spring of 1941.

He served first aboard the USS Colorado, then the USS Massachusetts from its commissioning until the war’s end, as a gunner’s mate operating and directing anti-aircraft guns. The Massachusetts earned eleven battle stars: one for Operation Torch in North Africa and ten more in the Pacific. After working a year in the Personnel Separation Center, Shoemaker, California, Chief Kelly left active duty and returned to the Northwest with his wife Berna Dene (Preuschhof) of Silver Creek, Wash., whom he had married in 1944. Decades later, his ball cap would still often drift rightward and find rest at the same jaunty tilt seen in his old sailor photos.

Harold opened Kelly’s Sport Shop, gunsmithing and selling guns and tackle, in a small space next to the Pix (now Chehalis) Theater in 1947. The business would grow to include boats, motors, and Honda motorcycles and power equipment, and moved, first to Market and Fairview and then to nearby 1970 South Market, before he sold it in 1988. Although retired, he continued gunsmithing, trading at shows, and selling guns and parts, even into the early 2010s. Ever the shrewd trader, Harold was known to plead that he was just trying to break even.

An avid hunter and fisher, Harold thrived in retirement. He and wife Nancy, whom he married in 1968, now traveled more and spent more time with children and grandchildren at home, at Silver Lake, and especially in the Idaho environs of Harold’s youth where they kept a cabin.

Nancy moved to a nursing home after strokes in 2000 and Harold eventually moved from Lucas Creek to town, now closer to his daily visits with Nancy. Following diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, from late 2011 onward Harold lived in several assisted living and nursing facilities. Nancy died in 2015.

Harold worked hard but also knew how to have fun, and is remembered for his love of the outdoors, sly sense of humor, dead aim, and endless supply of colorful expressions. He was a member of Robert Morris Lodge #97 F. & A. M. in Silver Creek, V.F.W. Post #3429 in Toledo, B.P.O.E. Lodge #1374/2435 in Chehalis, and the N.R.A.

Harold was preceded in death by sister, Beverly; father; wife, Berna; brother, Bill; mother; and wife, Nancy. He is survived by a brother, Dan (Beverly) Kelly of Longview, Wash; daughter, Beah Robinson of Fort Bragg, Calif; stepchildren, John Heldreth, Keith (Lisa) Heldreth, and Tami Holman, all of Chehalis, Wash.; sons, Andy (Marlene) Kelly of Hoquiam, Wash., and Craig (Anne) Kelly of Mitchell, S.D.; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Interment will be December 12, 2020 in Greenwood Memorial Park, Centralia, at a graveside service for immediate family.