Thomas Kelly, 69, fire chief in Burlco

Thomas D. Kelly
Thomas D. Kelly
Posted: October 04, 2013

When Thomas D. Kelly went on vacation, he didn't always take a vacation from his love of firefighting.

From New England to New York state, "he would go to different fire companies," daughter Hope Kowalski said.

"He would look at the different fire trucks," she said, or "just go in and talk to the firefighters."

On Monday, Sept. 30, Mr. Kelly, 69, of Burlington City, a former fire chief there, died of complications from diabetes at Virtua Memorial hospital in Mount Holly.

Mr. Kelly attended Burlington City High School, his daughter said, but left before graduating because he had to help support his family after his father died.

When he was 17, he had already become a volunteer firefighter for the former Hope Steam Fire Engine Company in Burlington, she said. In 1981, he served a one-year term as chief of the volunteer fire companies in the city, where four are active today.

Even after he stepped away from firefighting, he would attend monthly meetings of firefighters and would show up at fires fought by his buddies.

Apart from the civic responsibility of firefighting, she said, he liked volunteering just "to hang out, get together at the firehouse."

Mr. Kelly grew up in Burlington and was a forklift operator, first for Hooker Chemical Co. in Burlington and then for its successor Occidental Chemical Corp.

Mr. Kelly was a member of the New Jersey State Fire Chiefs Association and the New Jersey State Exempt Firemen's Association.

Besides his daughter, Mr. Kelly is survived by sons Edward and Thomas, a brother, a sister, two grandchildren, and his former wife, Noreen Ferguson.

A viewing was set from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, at Page Funeral Home, 302 E. Union St., Burlington, before a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Paul Church in the Parish of St. Katharine Drexel, 223 E. Union St., Burlington.

Donations may be made to Deborah Hospital Foundation, 212 Trenton Rd., Browns Mills, N.J. 08015, or

Condolences may be offered to the family at

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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