Chance Simpson, who's with the Wichita Falls Fire Department Honor Guard, says, "He was a very caring individual. He had a huge heart. He always wanted to help somebody in any way he could."
Wichita Falls Mayor Glenn Barham says, "Kelly was one of the bravest people I've ever known. He fought this terrible Lou Gehrig's disease with a spirit that just couldn't be beat."
Kelly's family, fellow firefighters, and friends celebrated his life at Kay Yeager Coliseum Saturday.
During the service, Paul Meyenberg, chaplain for the WFFD, said Kelly was a true friend with a servant's heart, who was a friend to people he knew, and even people he didn't know.
Even after he was diagnosed with ALS, Kelly dedicated his life to working with different charities, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, helping others fight the same battle he was faced with.
Daniel York, district director for the MDA, says, "He was a great ambassador for us and the fire department. He traveled the country promoting what the MDA does and what the fire department does with the MDA."
"To do that in the manner that he did and always be upbeat and be so inspirational to other people and the countless people he helped during his fight is just phenomenal. We're going to miss him," Mayor Barham says.
Meyenberg also said Kelly saw his disease as a blessing, stating he would not have meet so many wonderful people had it not been for his diagnosis.
"It shows a lot about his character that he was able to put aside what he was going through and was still able to think about other people," York says.
Wichita Falls firefighters, whom Kelly called "his brothers", wore orange ribbons on their jackets, and the women wore orange scarves, in remembrance of the man who took on the orange "Crush" soda name to promote a charity near and dear to his heart.
"The orange is a color he adopted for the MDA, and it just kind of signifies him. The black is us mourning him," Simpson says.
Mayor Barham said the service was a sad occasion, but also joyful in that so many people came together to celebrate such a great friend; a man who Barham called an inspirational figure who was continuously lifting others' spirits even when fighting his own battle.
"I never saw Kelly down in the last four years. He was always upbeat. His courage is just phenomenal. We're sorry to see Kelly go, but we take comfort in the fact that we know he's in a better place," Mayor Barham says.
Kelly was buried at Crestview Memorial Cemetery.
Hundreds of cars filed in following the station 8 fire truck carrying Crush, the very truck he used to drive.
In quoting Abraham Lincoln, perhaps Ed Baker, MDA divisional field representative and Kelly's good friend said it best: "It's not the years it your life, but the life in your years."
Kelly lived such a powerful, impactful life, he practically crammed two lives into one.
Meyenberg said Kelly wanted to be remembered as a good guy with a great sense of humor and a genuine, life-driven care for others.
Meyenberg said he'll definitely be remembered that way.
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