Kelly, Kerry K. O.

Kerry “K.O.” Kelly, SMSgt., USAF (Retired)
October 31, 1938 – April 27, 2015

Kerry “K.O.” Kelly(1938 – 2015)

Retired Senior Master Sgt. Kerry “K.O.” Kelly, 76, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., peacefully entered into his eternal life on Monday, April 27, 2015 surrounded by the love of his life, his “punkin” and his two “buds.”

Kerry loved his family and dedicated his life to their happiness and security. He was known for his friendly demeanor, his happy whistle, his dependable leadership, and his humble generosity. He had a thirst for knowledge, and a willingness to share it, which was evident in the hours he spent mentoring others throughout his life – from young troops to fledgling realtors to his children and grandchildren.

Even as a teenager, Kerry’s work ethic was his hallmark – working two jobs at the tender age of 13. He eventually left his hometown of Dade City, Fla. to begin a rewarding career in the Air Force. His first and greatest reward came when he met his sweetheart, Barbara Harrison, while stationed at a small radar site in Thomasville, Ala.

Kelly went on to become a proud team member of an elite group of Pararescuemen (PJ’s). As a PJ, he flew rescue missions in Vietnam, flew coverage for the launch and recovery for Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space missions, and participated in numerous military and civilian rescue missions around the world. In spite of its dangers and challenges, it was a good life.

K.O. and Barb, along with their three children, Susie, Kerry and Kevin, traveled the world, collecting a treasure trove of friendships and memories with each stop along the way. Their adventures took them to Libya, the Azores, Hawaii, Okinawa, Illinois and they eventually settled in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Kerry always said that he was the luckiest man on earth to have had two careers that he loved so much. After nearly 22 years, he retired from the Air Force and began a career in real estate. He started as an agent in Hawaii, was a broker with Century 21 in Illinois, and eventually opened Hallmark Realty Services in Fort Walton. He later added Hallmark Property Management to complement the sales force, and Hallmark Training Center to train new realtors. Then, in 1996, he recognized the need for skilled local property inspectors, and started American Property Inspectors of NW Florida. The company’s fleet of signature red trucks now traverse a five county radius.

Community service was always a priority to Kerry. He served on the Board of Directors for Council on Aging and for the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, as a mediator for the State of Florida, as President of Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, 1989, as Vice President District 9, Florida Association of Realtors, 1990, and as President of the Pararescue Association, to name a few. He loved the Emerald Coast and served it well as a respected community leader.

To his grandchildren, Kerry was a beloved “Papa.” He was active in their daily lives and left them with cherished memories of family adventures, scavenger hunts, and his famous milkshakes. In him, they witnessed a beautiful example of unconditional love and complete adoration.

Recently, Kerry endured the challenges of living with ALS and though this awful disease devastated his body, his mind remained sharp, and though he could not speak, he retained the use of his hands to communicate. The hands that labored to provide for his family and saluted the flag, that held babies and saved lives, that greeted friends and finalized agreements – functioned until the end to pray and to communicate. A hand-sign conveyed his love and a gentle squeeze never meant so much. Words are overrated anyway – because there are none to convey how much his sweet spirit and comforting wisdom will be missed.

Kerry is survived by his cherished wife of 56 years, Barbara; his three children, Susie Colbert and husband Richard, Kerry Kelly and wife Diane, and Kevin Kelly; his grandchildren, Daniel Colbert and wife Kate, Cameron Colbert and wife Laura, Max Colbert, and Josephine Kelly; one great-grandchild, Etienne Balli; two sisters, Evelyn Taylor and Patricia Kelly; brother, Johnny Kelly; one sister-in-love, Judy Parris; many nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.

A service honoring the life of Kerry Kelly will be Saturday, May 2, 2015 at Shalimar Baptist Church, 17 4th Avenue, Shalimar, FL. Visitation will be at 9:30 a.m. and service will follow at 10:30 a.m.

Interment in Barrancas National Cemetery on NAS Pensacola on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to the Pararescue Association ( or the ALS Association (

Arrangements are under the direction of Davis-Watkins Funeral Home. To share memories, express condolences and sign the guestbook please visit 

Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News from Apr. 30 to May 1, 2015


May God bless the Kelly family and our Pararescue family for our loss of a warm hearted and loving man…KO, you will be remembered fondly. Barb, you are in our hearts and prayers.

Brian & Debi Douglas, Aberdeen, North Carolina

May 17, 2015
Dearest Barb, Brian was told last night about KO’s passing. We send our love and sympathy to you and your family. You and KO were an important part of our Pararescue Legacy…and still are. We are proud to have known KO and you. You both always have a place in our hearts. -Brian and Debi Douglas (Aberdeen, NC)

Brian Douglas (Ret CMSGT, PJ), Aberdeen, North Carolina

May 06, 2015
Barbara, please accept our sincere condolences to you and your family. Your loss is our loss and know that you are in our hearts and prayers.

Pete and Libbi Clark, Neepawa, Manitoba

May 06, 2015
I send my condolences to the family. I enjoyed the time we had on our joint reunions. I will say a prayer. Ron O’Reilly (Canadian Para Rescue)

Ron O’Reillty, Comox, British Columbia

May 05, 2015
Our condolences to KO’s familly.We never knew him personally but he was part of what we do to help others. RIP KO

Chesley/Audrey Chaulk, Greenwood, Nova Scotia

May 05, 2015
K.O., brother and fellow Pararescueman, you will be missed. Smooth sailing to you.

Dick Pambrun, Cape Coral, Florida

May 05, 2015
I didn’t know K.O. well but what I new of him, I liked! We met several times over the years at the various SAREX competitions between Canadian Sartech’s & American PJ’s. You have served your country well! May you rest in peace!

John Kelly, Winnipeg, Manitoba

May 04, 2015
RIP – Kerry Kelly Thank you for your service to our country. God bless your family. I will miss you so much. I attended many of your real estate classes over the years. You were the best inspector in the world. You were honest, dependable, professional, trustworthy and knowledgeable… I know you are in heaven and Jesus greeted you saying… Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Janette Klein, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

May 04, 2015
Our condolences to Barb and the entire family. KO was a dear friend from one of the first times that they allowed American PJ’s and Canadian SAR Techs out together in public. He will be missed by all.

Dawn and Mike Johnston, Trenton, Ontario

May 03, 2015
K.O., you have been the greatest motivator throughout my entire life. I have always loved you as my “Big” brother, and I always will.

Bill Davidson, Navarre, Florida

May 02, 2015
K.O you will always be remembered at our gatherings for the special way that you set the Missing comrade table. You did so with such Honor and presence. Now we the surviving will think of you at that next setting of that table. You are missed Brother. Proud to have known you.

Tom Large, Dublin Ohio

May 01, 2015
I have smiled and cried at memories of KO. He was like my brother and I loved him dearly. Will always carry a part of him in my heart He made our lives fun many times at his expense when he and Barb were dating and after they married. Memories flow

Susan Pugh, Hanceville, Alabama

May 01, 2015
Larry and Doreen Sauls. Orlando, Florida

May 01, 2015
Kelly was a dear friend and fellow Pararescueman. Will miss his smiling face and gentle ways. One of the best. Luv u Barbara. Be with u in prayer for God’s Peace and Healing. Our Love, Tommy and Carol Miles

Tommy Miles Jr., Eagle River, Wisconsin

May 01, 2015
First met KO as a young kid in HI in 1975, he and Barb have been a friend and part of our family ever since.
With all our love, brother.

Bill Watson, Kirkland, Washington

May 01, 2015
I flew rescue missions with KO during the Viet-Nam era. He was a good man and will be missed. My sincere condolences to his family and friends alike. RIP KO.

Floyd (Buck) Watson, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

April 30, 2015
Kerry is going to be missed by all. I loved him and will truly miss him. He was always there when I needed him or needed direction. He was and still is a very special person and remain in my heart forever!!!! Love to you Barb and your family. If you ever need anything, I will be here for you just as Kerry was always there to help!!

Mary E. Ward, Fort Walton Beach, Florida

April 30, 2015
KO was an active, enthusiastic person who never met a stranger. I was stationed with him, and Ray Cooper, in Hawaii. KO had his hands full trying to direct a group of young PJ’s in the right direction in Hawaii. He did it in a very caring manner. We all learned a great deal from him. If I remember him right, he is right now trying to get St Peter a real estate license. God Bless you all.

Jim Hunt, Bonaire, Georgia

April 30, 2015
I was a PJ stationed with KO in Hawaii in 1974. He was one of my first NCOIC’s and a dear friend. After I retired he gave me my first civilian job as a property inspector. I worked for him for less than a year before accepting a GS position in the DC area where I still work. I considered Barb a second mother. KO will be dearly missed.

Ray Cooper, Stafford, Virginia

April 30, 2015
Kerry was my mentor and boss at Red Carpet Hallmark Realty from 1986-1990. I will always remember him for his smile, humor, leadership, and the inspirational quotes posted on the door to his business. He always had a kind word to say. May he rest in peace.

Kelly and Troy Gronotte, Fort Mitchell, Kentucky

April 30, 2015
My condolences to Barbara and the entire Kelly family. Thank you all for your service to our country and my ‘slow hand salute’ to SMSgt. Kerry “K.O.” Kelly for his distinguished service to our country. May God comfort and protect the Kelly family. SMSgt James W. Burns, (retired) USAF RotorHeads

Jim Burns, Navarre, Florida

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned

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