James F. Kelly, 81, manager of theaters

James F. Kelly
James F. Kelly
Posted: November 09, 2012

James F. Kelly, 81, of Bensalem, a retired Marine who managed three drive-in theaters in the Philadelphia area, died of heart failure on Sunday, Nov. 4, at his home.

Mr. Kelly was born in Philadelphia and raised in the Roxborough section. He attended St. John's High School before joining the Marines about 1950. He was stationed in Hawaii, California, and Virginia.

He served in the Marine Corps for about 20 years, rising to the rank of gunnery sergeant. He was deployed to Korea and Vietnam.

In Korea, Mr. Kelly was one of the "Chosin Few," members of the First Division hailed for bravery as they fought Chinese troops at Chosin Reservoir in a battle some called the Iwo Jima of the Korean War.

In 1952, he married Rose M. Horan, whom he met at a dance at the Germantown YMCA.

After retiring from the Marines in 1969, Mr. Kelly moved to Bensalem. He then began about a 10-year career as the general manager of the Andalusia drive-in in Bensalem, the Lincoln in Trevose, and the Lawrence in Trenton.

His son Joseph recalled watching two or three movies - Westerns, action films and horror flicks - with his brothers at the Andalusia on Friday nights after Boy Scout meetings.

He said his father managed the theaters until they closed in the early 1980s.

Mr. Kelly later worked as a road inspector for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

He was a longtime member of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bensalem.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Kelly is survived by sons, James, Thomas, Patrick, Richard, and Christopher, 14 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Viewings will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Tomlinson Funeral Home, 2207 Bristol Pike, Bensalem. A Funeral Mass will follow at 10 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 1731 Hulmeville Rd., Bensalem. Burial will be at Washington Crossing National Cemetery, Newtown.


Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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