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Mary Kelly

Mary Esther Kelly, 78, of Des Moines, Iowa passed away on February 21st, 2023, from brain cancer.

Mary was born April 22, 1944, to L. Wood and Juanita Swaggart and grew up, along with her older sister Paula, in the Washington Park neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. Mary loved being in the Colorado mountains, playing with her sister, and spending time with family. Mary graduated from South High School in Denver in 1962 where she was on the dean’s list, very active in journalism, ROTC, and was all-state in orchestra as a violinist.

Mary attended Colorado College and then the University of Denver where she graduated in 1966. Mary was very active in her college years serving as President of the Colorado College Association, directing the first statewide college television show, and was selected as outstanding future educator. After graduation, Mary moved to Boston, Mass where she taught 7th and 8th grade English for several years. In the summer of 1968, she met her future husband and love of her life Joe Kelly at a graduate-level teaching institute in Blacksburg, Virginia. Mary and Joe Kelly were married June 28th, 1969, in Denver, Colorado.

Mary and Joe moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1973 and gave birth to their first son Kyle in 1974 and then to their second son Michael in 1977. Mary loved her family fiercely and was the best wife and mother her family could have ever imagined. Through the years, Mary loved family vacations, attending her sons’ sporting events, and long walks with her husband. Family was her priority, and she was always there for Mike, Kyle, and Joe.

Throughout Mary’s life, she believed strongly in community and was passionate about helping others. Some of her endeavors included the following: teaching GED courses for community corrections programs, working in an adolescent mental health unit, and starting her own career counseling business. Mary was an active participant in two churches in Des Moines: The Unitarian Universalist church and Trinity Las Americas, where she spent much time volunteering and making many great friends along the way.

Mary was a proud grandmother of four grandchildren. Her son Kyle and daughter-in-law Kelsey Kelly have two daughters: Elizabeth Ann Kelly (5yrs) and Brooklyn Mary Kelly (2yrs). Her son Michael and daughter-in-law Heidi Kelly have a daughter, Rae Ebba Kelly (7yrs), and a son, Rowan David Kelly (4yrs). Mary adored all of her grandchildren and cherished any moment she spent with them.

Mary was well known for her beautiful smile, her loving heart, her optimism, her passion for social justice, and her welcoming nature toward all. She lived a wonderfully rich life, and she will be missed dearly.

The family thanks the medical professionals of Iowa Methodist Hospital, Mission Blood and Cancer Oncology, Jewish Life Center, and especially the Kavanagh House staff where Mary received hospice care for two months.

A celebration of Mary’s life will be held April 22nd, 2023, at the First Unitarian Church in Des Moines at 2pm.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Mary Kelly Memorial Scholarship fund. The scholarship will be awarded to a graduating senior from Hoover High School in Des Moines, Iowa where Mary’s sons graduated high school and will aim to fully fund the completion of a two-year associate degree at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).

Please make sure to click on the 'scholarship' option on the drop-down menu where it says 'designate' and then also please make sure to type in Mary Kelly Memorial Scholarship in the comment box otherwise the donation won't apply to her particular scholarship.

If you prefer to send a check, send it to: DMACC Foundation, 2006 S Ankeny Blvd, Bldg. 22, Ankeny, Iowa 50023. Write “Mary Kelly Scholarship Fund” in the memo of the check to assure that the gift is dedicated to the Mary Kelly Scholarship.


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