Elene Jackson Kelly, 97, of Amarillo, died June 7, 2021.
Visitation will be from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Thursday, June 10, at Angel Funeral Home, 2209 S. Arthur St. Funeral service will be at 2 p.m., Friday, June 11, at Angel Funeral Home, with Pastor Don Speedy officiating. Arrangements are by Angel Funeral Home, 2209 S. Arthur St.
Elene was born in 1924 on a cotton farm outside Memphis, Texas. She was the eighth of eleven children born to parents James Andrew Jackson Sr. and Bessie (Hassenzahl) Jackson. Bessie estimated newborn Elene weighed no more than four pounds. The family called her “Tiny” and made a crib for her in a dresser drawer.
In the 1930s, Elene’s family lived on leased farms including one in Emma, Texas. They later moved into the town of Ralls, where she attended Ralls High School. Elene and her sister Bernice once missed two weeks of school so they could pick cotton to earn money for fabric to make school choir dresses.
In 1940, the family moved to Amarillo. Elene graduated from Amarillo High School in 1942 and was a member of the National Honor Society. She worked at Ballard’s Cleaners and then at Whiteway Grocery Store until the end of World War II. With her earnings, she helped support her mother and younger brother. At age 21, she bought a used upright piano for $150 and took three months of piano lessons. The piano moved with her four times, and she often sat down to play and sing favorite hymns.
For several years, Elene attended Glenwood Baptist Church, then joined the Miracle Book Club Bible Study led by Brother H.A. Somerville at Amarillo Bible Church. Brother Somerville encouraged the church’s youth to consider attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. By working at Kuykendall’s Dress Shop as a seamstress, Elene saved enough for herself and her younger brother, Bud, to enroll at Moody. In 1950, they and several friends boarded the train for Chicago and began classes.
At Moody, Elene majored in Biblical Studies with a secondary concentration in music. She worked her way through college as a school dining hall server and mail handler at Rylander’s. She served on various class committees and sang in the senior class ensemble. She graduated with highest honors in 1952.
Elene returned to Amarillo and worked as a bookkeeper at concrete company Crowe-Gulde and then at Alltronics, a radio/television supply company. She applied her Biblical ministry training as a volunteer with Child Evangelism Fellowship, an organization she supported throughout her life. At Amarillo Bible Church, she volunteered as a secretary and served on the church building committee. Also on the committee was a young man named Jo Bob Kelly. A courtship blossomed, and they married in 1959.
Elene kept the books for the family business, Kelly Tree Service, while running the household and raising three children. She later worked as a seamstress for Peter Pan Cleaners and set up her own sewing business, Kelly’s Alterations. For many years, Elene did uniform alterations for the Caprock High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC program. She retired from sewing for the public at age 90.
At Amarillo Bible Church, Elene served in many capacities, including Sunday School Secretary, AWANA children’s program leader, and member of the Ladies’ Fellowship. She sang in the choir and participated in many special community performances, including Handel’s Messiah. She was a faithful financial supporter and friend to many missionaries. She memorized Bible verses through the Bible Memory Association program, and she took her family to BMA’s summer “Miracle Camp” in Louisiana.
A keen player of dominoes since her youth, Elene also loved to read, study the Bible, and bake. She later took up Sudoku puzzles, which became a favorite daily pastime until the end of her life.
She was preceded in death by her parents; by eight brothers, Herman, Denzel, Harold, Otis, Lynn, Gilbert, Burl, and James Andrew Jackson Jr. (Bud); by two sisters, Bernice Wickware and Mable Dycus; and by a grandson, Emmett Abbey.
Elene is survived by her children, Lisa Thomas and husband Lamar of Amarillo, Joseph Kelly and wife Desiree of Houston, and Kristine Abbey of Springfield, Missouri; her sister-in-law, Dolores Jackson; five grandchildren, Glori Kelly, Grace Kelly, Joshua Kelly, Eben Abbey, and Elliott Abbey; many nieces and nephews; many cousins, including Paul White and Alden White; and many missionary friends, including Dick Remley and his family.
The family requests memorials in lieu of flowers be Child Evangelism Fellowship of West Texas, Panhandle Chapter, 2700 S. Western St., Suite 500, Amarillo, TX 79109.