I sat down at my favorite watering hole “Bitzee Mamas,” and across from me was William (Bill) Kelleher, known to his children as “Wild Willie.” Bill told me he met his wife Judy when a friend had arranged a blind date for him. On the way to pick her up he had auto accident and ended up in the hospital. His blind date came to the hospital to introduce herself.
Bill and Judy have been married 56 years. Bill and Judy have four daughters, 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. Bill married Judy and went to school and became a mortician, and then went to work for his wife’s father, who owned a funeral home. After a few years one of his daughters had a breathing problem, made worse in the wet weather of Illinois. So, they packed up and moved to Phoenix.
I first met bill when he gave me 13 very expensive portraits of U.S. presidents to hang on the wall of my courtroom. I asked Bill, “Do you have a motto or something that encourages you to do so many good things?” Bill said, “I was raised a Catholic. My parents were always engaged in doing good things. Every morning I pray the prayer of St. Frances and I try every day to live that prayer, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.’”
Several years ago I was proud of the fact I had given 100 pints of blood. I told Bill and he said he had given 130 pints. It is always like that. You cannot out give Bill. Bill told me about meeting past President Jimmy Carter. He had traveled to Georgia to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity. He told me about how difficult it was for him and a coworker to lift the heavy 4-by-8 sheets of drywall and place them in the ceiling. They noticed a very large man lifting the sheets of drywall by himself with ease. At noon he was introduced to this very large person. His name was Joe Green, the same “Mean Joe Green” of the NFL’s Pittsburg Steelers.
Bill is a past president of the Glendale Rotary, a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and a regular member of the team that builds two houses in Mexico every year. He has been a lifelong member of the Knights of Columbus, holding many local and statewide positions. In 1991 Bill was president of the chamber of commerce in Glendale. He and his wife were heavily involved in starting a free lunch program. He has traveled to the Amazon on trips to improve health care, been to Guatemala many times to fit glasses and been on the advisory board for the Salvation Army for 20 years. Maj. Leslie said Bill was the driving force that made the new $500,000 building remodel possible. Six weeks prior to Christmas Bill and his family checked out a red kittle from the Salvation Army, and every Saturday you will find the Kelleher’s ringing the bell in front of Fry’s.
When I asked why he does all these things, Bill answered, “On a trip to Guatemala I was fitting an old lady with glasses and she started to cry and said, ‘Now I can see and now I can sew.’”
Lesson: He ain’t heavy. He is my brother.