Monday, March 22, 2010

Donald Kelly - Gresham Son, Leo High School Benefactor, Religious and Civic Leader R. I.P.

Mr. Don Kelly was a son of the streets of the Gresham Neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. A graduate of the school with one of the largest Catholic populations in Chicago - Calumet High School: Chicago Public School - Don Kelly gave back.

To Mrs. Byrd Kelly and all the Kelly Family, Leo High School offers its prayers and sympathies.

God Bless You, Don & Byrd!

Donald P. Kelly, one of Chicago's most notable business, financial and philanthropic figures of his era, passed away at his home in Naples, FL, early Thursday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 88.

The Chicago-born Mr. Kelly was chairman, president and chief executive officer of Esmark, Inc. from 1977 to 1984. He then formed an investment company, Kelly, Briggs & Associates. He served as chairman of BCI Holdings Corp., later Beatrice Companies, Inc., a major food processing company, from 1986 to 1988. He has been president and chief executive officer of D.P. Kelly & Associates since 1988. Mr. Kelly served as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Envirodyne Industries, Inc. from 1989 to 1996.

He has served as chairman and a director for E-II Holdings Inc.; Kelly Briggs & Associates, Inc.; Esmark, Inc.; Swift & Co.; G.D. Searle; General Dynamics Corp.; Inland Steel Industries Inc.; Harris Bankcorp, Inc.; Harris Trust & Savings Bank; and McGraw-Edison Co.

In 1986, he organized at that time the largest leveraged buyout in American business history, when he, along with the New York investment firm of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., acquired Beatrice Companies for $6.2 billion. As chairman and chief executive officer of E-II Holdings, Inc., Mr. Kelly led several $1 billion transactions. Throughout his career, Mr. Kelly led multiple billion dollar transactions.

Mr. Kelly began his business career in 1946 in the computer department of United Insurance Company of America. He was with A.B. Wrisley Company from 1951 to 1953, when he joined Swift & Company. He moved up at Swift, becoming assistant controller in 1965, controller in 1966, vice president of corporate development and controller in 1967 and financial vice president and director in 1970. In 1973, he led the reorganization of Swift & Company becoming a financial vice president and a director of Esmark, Inc. He was appointed CEO in 1977.

Mr. Kelly grew up in Chicago's South Side Gresham neighborhood. His parents were Thomas. N. Kelly and Ethel M. Kelly. He attended the Ryder Grammar School, Westcott Junior High School, and Calumet High School. Although he did not go to college, he attended night classes at De Paul and Loyola universities and was a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

Mr. Kelly was born on February 24, 1922. As a youth, his family lived at 8516 S. Union Avenue in a three-bedroom, one-bath house. His mother was a taskmaster, he said. His father had lost his job during the Depression and like many families the Kellys struggled through it. "However, we made it and I still remember a home where laughter was more prevalent than tears," Kelly said. "Our parents were always there when we needed a supporting word or pat on the back." Kelly had three brothers, William, Thomas and Robert.

Mr. Kelly enlisted in the Navy at the outbreak of World War II and served from 1942 to 1946 . He served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters aboard the U.S.S. Osterhaus. He was stationed at the Caviti Naval Base in the Philippine Islands from mid-1945 until discharged in 1946. He was proud of his naval service, he said. "I was not one, but I saw many who I consider to have been heroes," Kelly said. "We helped many of them on their missions and I know they will never be adequately or truly appreciated by those who will not and frankly cannot know the sacrifice they made or the hell they went through. You had to be there. I will always be proud of having served in the greatest Navy ever assembled."

At age 30, in 1952, Mr. Kelly married his wife, Byrd M. Sullivan. The two met at an insurance company where she worked after attending college and until their first child was due. Mr. Kelly joked that on the news of their engagement, an aunt sent her a sympathy card.

Mr. Kelly used his financial success to contribute to others. His philanthropy has supported the interests of numerous agencies and educational institutions. In 1986, he established the Donald P. and Byrd M. Kelly Foundation of Oak Brook, IL, which provides financial support for organizations, institutions and individuals who are involved in providing or seeking formal education.

Mr. Kelly supported the University of Notre Dame, DePaul University, Loyola University, St. Norbert College, Regis University, and the University of Kansas. The Foundation has provided a perpetual scholarship fund at Loyola. It has supported the heart transplant unit and the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center of Loyola University Medical Center and provided a grant to Loyola's Mundelein College. For their support and involvement in the university, Loyola awarded Mr. and Mrs. Kelly the Damen award in 1985 and later, Mrs. Kelly, with the school's Camelia Award for women in recognition of their contributions.

Mr. Kelly was a member of the advisory councils of the University of Notre Dame College of Business Administration and the DePaul University College of Commerce. He was a member of the board of trustees of University of Notre Dame and St. Norbert College and a life trustee of Fenwick High School. He received honorary doctoral degrees from Loyola University and DePaul University. He was also active in numerous other business and civic organizations.

Mr. Kelly is survived by his widow, Byrd; two sons, Patrick and Thomas; a daughter, Laura Kelly Smith; and 12 grandchildren.

Visitation will be at the Hallowell & James Funeral Home, 1025 W. 55th Street, Countryside, from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 23rd. A funeral mass for Mr. Kelly will be said at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, March 24th, at St. John of the Cross Church, 4920 Caroline Avenue, Western Springs, followed by interment at the Bronswood Cemetery, 3805 Madison Street, Oak Brook.

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