Jack Turner Kelley, Sr., was born July 8, 1937, in Orlando, Florida, the second child of Jack and Gladys Kelley. His older brother died of Typhoid Fever before Jack was born.
Jack passed from this life on November 17, 2022, at age 85.
“Turner,” Jack’s middle name, was given in memory of a Methodist minister, A. Fred Turner, who rescued his parents during the Great Depression. “They took them in and kept them from starving,” he said.
Jack’s father was awaiting orders to enter the Marine Corps during WWII when he was killed in an auto accident. He was the proprietor of a grocery store in Orlando at the time. Gladys continued to manage the business for several years after her husband’s death.
In 1949, at age 12, Jack accepted Christ as his Savior in the First Baptist Church of Orlando. That was when his desire to be in ministry began. At least that was when he started telling everyone he was going to be a Methodist minister when he grew up.
As Jack looked back on his life, he said he could see the hand of God orchestrating his moves and preparing him for ministry to men. When he completed high school, he was one of the few true Floridians to graduate at that time. As a youngster, he spent several years at a military school for boys then graduated from the all-male Citadel and went on to command army units of all men for 20 years.
While serving as youth pastor in the Folly Beach Methodist Church, near Charleston, South Carolina, Jack met his future wife, Lynn Freeman. He was a senior cadet at the time, and she was a student nurse. They were married on October 22, 1960, in Sylvania, Georgia. Lynn preceded Jack in death on April 11, 2022.
Jack graduated from The Citadel in 1959. That same year, he applied for and was accepted at Chandler School of Theology at Emory University. It looked like everything was on track, except for one hitch: he was to serve in the Army for a short time before going to seminary. That “short time” lasted 20 years.
Upon retirement from military service in 1979, Jack joined a local church and began pursuing his dream of being a lay minister. One problem stood between him and his goal: his denomination wasn’t focusing on lay ministry at the time. They said those areas were reserved only for the ordained.
At the same time, Jack’s wife, Lynn, after much prayer and consideration, informed him that they needed to find a church that was “on fire and moving.” She suggested they move their membership to Northwood Temple, a Pentecostal Holiness Church on the other side of town. Things began to come together. In less than a year, his new pastor, John Hedgepeth, asked Jack to serve as an associate on his staff. For the next five years (1981-1985), Pastor Hedgepeth mentored him in the basics of ministry.
Five years later, Bishop B. E. Underwood, General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, gave Jack the opportunity to be in ministry to men. Following Bishop Underwood, Bishop James Leggett also allowed him to fulfill this vital role.
This assignment seemed to fit perfectly with Jack’s training and destiny. From childhood, he had gravitated toward organizations that focused on discipline and service. As a member of the Boy Scouts of America, he was awarded the Eagle Scout badge. He graduated from The Citadel in 1959 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry in the United States Army. In December 1979, he retired from the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel after 20 years of service. He commanded parachute infantry units at platoon, company, and battalion levels, where his last two assignments were as a Battalion Commander in the 82nd Airborne Division…and finally, as Deputy Commander, 5thSpecial Forces (“Green Berets”).
Jack was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star for Valor with Six Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal (12 awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Senior Parachutist Badge.
He earned a master’s degrees from both American University and Central Michigan, served as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and as an adjunct professor at both Webster University and Campbell University.
In 2006, Jack was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries (NCMM), a network of denominational and parachurch ministries representing more than half of the churches in the United States. He also received the Commander Bill Linn Award from the Royal Ranger Ministry (IPHC), in recognitions of his ministry of shaping the lives of boys. He also served as the Vice President of Advancement/Director of Development for Holmes Bible College, Greenville, South Carolina, from April 2007 to December 31, 2008.
The Kelleys had two sons: Jack Kelley, Jr., and wife, Elaine, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Shawn Kelley and wife, Aine, of Charlotte, North Carolina; three grandsons, Turner, Dillon, and Liam, and one granddaughter, Dr. Jessica Walsh O’Sullivan.
Jack served as Assistant Director of Men’s Ministries, then as Executive Director of Men’s Ministries of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), a position he held from 1985 to 2005. During this time, Jack compiled the volume, Here Am I, Send Me, a history of the first 20 years of Men’s Ministries in the IPHC. Jack claimed the title of that account, which is based on Isaiah 6:8, as his life motto.
Presiding Bishop A. D. Beacham, Jr., applauded Jack Kelley as a man of dedication. “Known as ‘Colonel’ Kelley, Jack brought energy and vision to IPHC Men’s Ministries. I can still hear his excitement as he stood before denominational boards and said, ‘Give me 30 seconds, Sir.’ Then he would engage us enthusiastically, tossing the old-fashioned slides of his presentation to the floor. Jack Kelley could ‘raise the dead’ in a denominational board meeting. He was a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War and served the denomination, his local church, and his family and friends with equal dedication.”
The present Executive Director of Men’s Ministries, W. A. Mills, Jr., remembers Jack Kelley and his lasting influence. “Colonel Kelley impacted my life in an indelible manner from the time I started pastoring as a young man to this very day,” he says. “I can still hear his indelible words ringing in my ears, ‘Say this, “I want to be a man of God… I got your six… You’re the best.’”
On January 26, 2019, W. A. Mills conferred on Jack Kelley the first William S. “Bill” Wellons, Sr., Lifetime Achievement Award. “It is indeed a privilege to stand on the shoulders of a great man like Jack Kelley,” says Mills. “I rise with countless others to salute him upon his promotion to the church triumphant.”
Jack Kelley’s son, Shawn, wrote, directed, and produced a documentary film titled, My Father’s Brothers. The following is a brief synopsis of that production:
June 29, 1966. During a routine patrol in the jungles of Vietnam, a platoon of U.S. soldiers stumbles upon a much larger enemy force. Outnumbered nearly 10-to-1, the platoon is savagely attacked. The triple-canopy jungle is dense and muddy, impeding the possibility of rescue.
“This film is a journey to understand what the survivors went through in 1966 and still go through today,” says Shawn. “Some had volunteered for the army as teenagers. Others were drafted. Some went back to Vietnam years later in hopes of finding closure and peace.”
Where to watch: https://www.myfathersbrothers.com/watch
While the documentary film was being made, Jack started writing a book titled Bonded In Battle. The volume is a true account of Sergeant Charles Morris, Medal of Honor Recipient, as he bravely led his men, paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam in June 1966. The book is available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3KewGjL
A memorial service honoring LTC (Ret.) Jack Kelley will be Saturday, November 26 at 1 p.m. at Northwood Temple Pentecostal Holiness Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina with family visitation at 12:00pm.