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James "Big Jim" Kelly

December 28, 1930 April 29, 2020
James "Big Jim" Kelly
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Obituary for James "Big Jim" Kelly

James D. Kelly, 89, of West Peoria, passed away at 7:44 p.m. at Proctor Place on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. He died of natural causes unrelated to COVID-19. 

Jim was born on December 28,1930, in Peoria, to James P. and Louise D. (Carlson) Kelly. He married Geraldine “Gerrie” Hartseil Forgey on October 8, 1994. They enjoyed more than 20 years of a beautiful life together. Gerrie preceded him in death on May 23, 2016.

Jim is survived by one brother, Bob (Grace Dentino) Kelly, his niece, Susan Tony (Al) and family, and three nephews: James M. Kelly, Stephen P. Kelly (Greta) and family, and Patrick K. Kelly (Collinda) and family. He also is survived by a large and loving family of cousins.

Jim enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. He was awarded the Purple Heart as a result of his courageous service for his country. He returned to Peoria after his service in the Army.

Jim was a lifelong plumber and proud member of Plumbers Local #63. He also was a 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus Spalding Council 427; the Order of Alhambra; St. Brendan Irish Society and St. Patrick Society of Peoria; White House Retreat League and Sand Trappers Golf League. An avid sports fan, he loyally rooted on the New York Yankees, the University of Notre Dame, the Green Bay Packers, and professional golf.

Affectionately known as “Big Jim” to many, Jim was a generous, gregarious and much loved-member of Peoria’s Kelly/ Donnelly/ McQuellon/ Crowley Clans. Jim was an integral part of every family celebration, many Spalding/Peoria Notre Dame Irish sporting events, and our cherished grandmother’s #1 helper, making holiday memories for us all.  A graduate of St. Patrick’s grade school and Spalding Institute, he continued to support Catholic education by subsidizing the tuition of many students over the years.

A daily communicant in his later years, the Catholic Mass was very important to Jim.

Monsignor Brian Brownsey, Jim’s pastor, will celebrate a funeral Mass at St. Mark’s Church for family and friends once we can all be together again. Jim had chosen James M. Kelly, Stephen Kelly, Patrick Kelly, Bill Crowley, Bobby Metzinger, Dennis McQuellon and Tom Joseph as his pallbearers.

Jim was appreciative of family and friends who supported his desire to live at home. He was grateful for his excellent medical care as he battled health issues, especially for Dr. Mackenzie McGee, and Dr. Jim McGee and their caring OSF team. Most importantly, Jim was blessed by the constant, loving care of Dr. Jerry McShane.

Jim and Gerrie will be reunited at Resurrection Mausoleum.

A memorial mass is postponed until 2021 at St. Mark Catholic Church with Msgr. Brian Brownsey officiating.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jim’s memory to St. Mark’s Catholic Church, 1113 W. Bradley Ave., Peoria, Il 61606, or; and Peoria Notre Dame High School, 5105 N. Sheridan Rd., Peoria, Il 61614 or

Online condolences and memories may be shared at

Memorial Contribution

St. Mark Catholic Church

1113 W Bradley Ave
Peoria, IL 61606

Peoria Notre Dame High School


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