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Attorney Mike Kelly remembered as Diocese of Wilmington St. Thomas More Society prepares for annual dinner April 24

Mike Kelly

Officially, the Saint Thomas More Society will have no winner of the Msgr. Paul J. Taggart St. Thomas More award at its annual dinner April 24 at the Wilmington Country Club.

In reality, it has already been awarded.

The late Mike Kelly, an attorney and local business owner, was named recipient of the award before his death in January. The longtime Wilmington lawyer and one of the owners of the family business, Kelly’s Logan House, had been a dedicated member of the society.

The committee that selects the honor to be presented each spring gets together every year as summer turns into fall to discuss candidates. As 2019 was ending, members decided Kelly would be the 2020 winner.

“In true Mike Kelly fashion, he at first resisted,” said Richard Kirk, co-chair of the society awards committee. “He said ‘Surely, you have more worthy recipients than me.’’’

Kirk said it took some convincing, but Kelly eventually agreed to be the award recipient at the May 2020 annual dinner.

“And then in March, it all blew up,” said Kirk, referring to the closures and postponements of most things public at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The group decided to make him the 2021 winner, but that year’s event also fell victim to COVID-19 restrictions, Kirk said. His friends knew Kelly was battling cancer. He died in January.

“When that came to pass, we were all really saddened by his loss, our loss,” Kirk said. “We were not able to have the dinner celebration that he deserved.”

Kelly, a parishioner at St. Ann’s in Wilmington, was a former president and longtime supporter of the group, Kirk said.

“Mike was always able to be counted on. He was really a phenomenal lawyer. A very successful trial lawyer. He could tell stories, and it was one of the ways he became so successful. He could really communicate. He was a big-time lawyer, but if you met him, you wouldn’t know it. He never talked about his own things, always wanted to know what was going on with you.”

Kirk said Kelly was presented with the award before he died and will go down in the society’s records as the 2020 winner.

The group is returning to its previous format that it had for dinners, Kirk said. While there will be no award presentation, there will be a guest speaker.

Kevin Reilly, a Salesianum School graduate and former NFL player with the Philadelphia Eagles, will speak to the group. Reilly has enjoyed a second career as an author and motivational speaker.

Reilly was diagnosed with a desmoid tumor in 1975 and has shared the role faith played during his battle against cancer and as he faced surgery to remove his left arm, shoulder and five ribs.