Mary was born to Ella Mae Niswander Hollans and Benjamin Franklin Hollans in the small town of Shawsville, Virginia.  Her family moved to Portsmouth, Virginia to follow her father’s work as an electrician.  Mary was raised in the Catholic faith and spent her early adult life as a wife and devoted mother to her children, Linda and Richard. She raised her children to appreciate the value of a good education and to appreciate the wonders of the world that surrounds them. She saw the value in missing a day of school to watch the circus train come to town or see the treasures of King Tut’s tomb.

In 1972, she married Charles William (Bill) Kelly Jr. Bill was a loving husband and as good a father as her children could have hoped for.  In 1983, Mary began a distinguished career in public service by working as a Congressional aid in the home office of Congressman Norman Sisisky. After Bill’s death in 2004, she continued her career working in the Chesapeake, Virginia’s Commissioner of Revenue‘s Office until her retirement in 2022.

Mary cherished the many friendships she developed through her work and community activities. Nothing gave her greater pleasure than her involvement in the many cultural and historical organizations of which she was a member. She was especially proud of her time with Old Dominion University’s Town-N-Gown for which she held several official positions.  Mary’s greatest fear was boredom, so she was always doing something and often it was something for someone else. Her generous spirit will be missed by many.

In 2005, Mary met Michael French while browsing through a bookstore.  Mike proved to be a loving companion for almost twenty years and a great support when she needed it most.  As Mary’s son, my wife, Bethany, and I cannot express the appreciation we have for Mike and the unconditional love he showed my mother each and every day.

So as we say goodbye to my Mama, I hope her heaven is filled with art and music and laughter and all the good things she deserved but didn’t get enough of in this life and I pray she knows how much she was loved, how grateful I am for all she did and sacrificed for me and how many lives were made better by her having lived the life she did.

I will simply say go in peace Mama since you didn’t like to rest.

Mary is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Bethany Kelly; loving companion, Michael French; daughter, Linda King; granddaughters, Rachel Gonzales and Jennifer King-Keeney; great-grandchildren, Vivien, Grace and William Gonzales and Ethan Keeney; and extended family Jane and Michael Thompson, Ann Thompson and Catherine Thompson-Schmidt.

A small graveside service will be held in Wake Forest, NC for close family.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the wild animal protective organization of your choice.

A memorial gathering will be planned at a later date for her friends in Virginia.

Arrangements by Clancy Strickland Wheeler Funeral Home and Cremation Service, 1051 Durham Road, Wake Forest, NC 27587. (919-556-7400)


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Graveside Service
February 20, 2024

2:00 PM
Pine Forest Memorial Gardens, Wake Forest, NC


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