A New Jersey native was drafted in the Army Air Corps in 1943.
He’s one of the few who met his wife who was also serving at the time – in the Women’s Army Corps.
In this week’s Veteran Salute a quick courtship led to decades of happiness.
Before Jim Kelley met his wife, he had a brief encounter that had a major effect on where his military service would take him.
It started with a party thrown for Jim and his fellow soldiers just two days before they left for overseas.
“He threw it at the kid sitting next to me he missed him and hit me. Took out my front teeth, knocked me out,” remembers Jim.
Jim says a drunk and angry Master Sergeant came to the party and threw a heavy pitcher of beer at the kid sitting next to him.
The injury sent Jim to the hospital while the rest of his unit went overseas.
“I guess I was lucky in a way,” says Jim. “Some of them were killed over there in the Phillippines.”
Jim would never go overseas.
Instead, he made several stops at various bases eventually stopping at Harding Field right outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
It was there Jim says he met his wife at a U.D.O. dance.
They quickly fell in love, but knew military life would force them to make quick decisions.
“You’re subject to transfer out of Baton Rouge and I’m subject to transfer God knows where they’re gonna send me and chances of us ever meeting again after the war are pretty slim and so she thought that was right, we’d better get married. So we got married, we knew each other six weeks,” laughs Jim.
The couple would be separated again by different deployments but would reunite in Kansas after the war ended and both were discharged.
After the war, Jim worked a few different jobs but found one he stuck with when he and a couple partners started Kelley and Dawson Service.
Jim and a couple partners made a name for themselves in the heating, air conditioning, HVAC industry.
“We became a pretty good factor in the A/C business here in Wichita,” says Jim.
After nearly 35 years, Jim would sell the business to his foreman of 27 years.
Kelley and Dawson Service still operates today under the same name.
Looking back Jim says he gave some thought to staying in the military, but other pressures in life led him to decided to move on.
He says he has no regrets.
“I’m glad I did it the way I did it. I did it my way as Frank says,” laughs Jim.