My dad, the original legacy and nature advocate

The child awakens to
a universe. The mind
of the child to
a world of wonder.
Imagination to a world
of beauty.
to a world of intimacy.

It takes a universe
to make a child both
in outer form and inner
spirit. It takes
a universe to educate
a child. A universe
to fulfill a child.

Each generation presides
over the meeting of these
two in the succeeding

So that the universe
is fulfilled in the child,
and the child is fulfilled
in the universe.

While the stars ring out
     In the heavens!
~ Thomas Berry

Today one year ago, the world lost the original nature advocate, my father Leo Kelleher (Popee to his grandchildren). He was 94 years young.

My Dad had been tuned into nature all his life. He and my Mom were a great match. Leo Kelleher was a second generation scrap metal recycler and in fact had a great hand in the early environmental changes the industry adopted in the 1960′s. My Grandad was a pioneer in the recycling business before him.

I’ll tell you the kind of parents my Mom and Dad were. When my older brothers and I were growing up we spent every waking moment possible outdoors. We were very active and a handful to adults I’m sure.

Near a meadow, we had a lake at the bottom of a dead end street that served the local textile mill. In the winter we would ice skate on the lake. In the spring they would drain the lake and with our Red Flyer wagons in tow we would hasten down to the narrow streams that were left after draining. We scooped up the flopping giant carp, and put them in the wagon for the trip up the hill. Once back to the house of course there was no water left in the wagons so we raced to my Mom’s bathtub and promptly filled it for our new catch.

The first time we did this, when my parents got back home my sister rushed to them to tell on us. My parents climbed the stairs, looked into the bathtub at the carp, and without hesitation my mother calmly said,” I think they’ll do better in your Dad’s bathtub in the basement.” My Mom was Nature’s best friend. Mom and Dad were a great team. There was no Nature Deficit Disorder in my house. They were Stephen Kellert and Rich Louv’s ideal parents.

Being as Irish as they get, my dad’s belief in Story ran deep in his genes. He thought of his life in terms of chapters of a book that included: B-17 pilot in WWII, young father, parish peacemaker, caregiver to a dying wife, Grandfather/Great Grandfather and then student/teacher of every day “we get to be here” on earth.  He taught Thomas Berry, a Passionist monk (and my uncle), the importance of The Story, that is, the narrative that intrigues your audience in relating ones thoughts.

He believed that we are endowed, and allowed, by our Creator with the ability to write our story every day. He loved the Hebrew word Timshel. He believed that it is our privilege to be able to craft our story of how we live that expresses love, honor and gratitude to the Creator for our precious time here on earth. But when someone told Pop he was a “holy man” he took a light hearted exception to it. After all, he truly did stay around after Mass to hug the women. People fed his soul. He only wanted to be known as a good man.

He was gracious always, not just when he wanted to be. Pop disparaged no one. People were better selves in knowing him, without necessarily knowing it was his energy and spirit providing the framework and the medium, as in the soil for a garden, to be better.

Leo Kelleher continued to urge young people to get involved in the world around them and pursue their passions. He was very disappointed he had to die, but he seemed to do it according to his story. It was a wonderful story with few regrets. It was a perfect ending going to bed having spoken to five of his surviving eight children and never waking up. He would have loved his magnificent send-off Mass said by his Pastor and friend Monsignor Marcaccio.

Much of his giving was in allowing others to give to him. There is graciousness and inner peace that allows that. It does not sound heroic, and yet sometimes it is.

4 thoughts on “My dad, the original legacy and nature advocate

  1. Nicely put……..I always thought of him as “The Admiral”. He was an aircraft carrier among the PT boats. One of kind.

    That mold has been broken……

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