Judge William Austin Kelly III

Judge William Austin Kelly III

William Austin Kelly III, also known to his childhood friends and family as Gary, 77, of Galena, Illinois, passed away peacefully at his home on December 9, 2022.

Bill was born on November 20th, 1945, to William Austin Kelly Jr. and Loretta Delaney in Oak Park, Illinois.

As a boy, Bill developed a strong work ethic he would carry with him for the rest of his life. At ages 14 and 15, he picked and planted sweet corn, tomatoes, parsley, and cabbage. When Bill turned 16, he worked at the Arlington Park Race Track for the next two summers. He worked seven days a week at the track for a dollar an hour. In his later teens and early 20s, he worked as a concrete laborer and on construction crews. Bill respected people who put in a full day of work. He was not impressed by titles or flash but rather by a person’s willingness to work hard and get the job done.

In 1959 Bill went off to Campion Jesuit High School, a boarding school in Praire du Chien, Wisconsin. He fondly recalled his four years of high school at Campion and thrived in the structured environment. While at Campion, he worked in the mess hall, played football and hockey, and participated in theatrical performances. The stage helped Bill hone his craft for captivating an audience with his stories and wit. For the rest of his life, Bill followed a disciplined lifestyle he formed at Campion.

Upon graduating from Campion in 1963, Bill had enough of the cold northern climates and hopped on a train for Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. At Spring Hill, he majored in English, graduating in 1967. Bill married Anna Kolck of Dubuque, Iowa, in 1967 and moved to Chicago, where he enrolled in law school at DePaul University. This was a busy time for Bill. His first son William (Billy) Austin Kelly IV, was born on May 11, 1968. Bill juggled working as a juvenile probation officer during the day and went to law school at night. He graduated from DePaul in June 1971.

In 1972 they moved with their son Billy to Galena, Illinois. He went to work as a lawyer that same year with Nack, Richardson, & Nack. Soon after moving to Galena, Bill and Anna had their second child, Matthew John Kelly. Bill often spoke of moving to Galena as one of the smartest things he ever did. He loved raising his family in such a beautiful town. While living in Galena for 50 years, Bill was involved in many activities, from being a volunteer firefighter to an Elks member to an assistant football coach for the Pirates.

As a child, Bill watched a film with a Roman Emperor giving the “thumbs-up-thumbs-down” signal in the Colosseum, and he thought that looked like a pretty good gig. Seeing there weren’t many jobs available as a Roman Emperor, he became a Circuit Court judge instead. In 1990 Bill was elected Resident Circuit Judge and sworn in by his father, who had also become a judge. Bill presided as Circuit Court Judge for Jo Daviess County for 30 years. While on the bench, he loved the job and always spoke highly of the people who worked at the courthouse. He firmly believed all people should be treated fairly and respectfully in the courtroom.

Bill married Robin Lowery on October 25th, 2000. From their home in the country, they enjoyed the quiet life. After a day in the courtroom, Bill loved to head out on the Mississippi River in a flatbottom, jet ski, or his 1963 houseboat, the “Mississippi Mermaid.” River rats could find Bill and Robin cruising up and down Dead Man’s Slough or relaxing at Kitto’s Point. Together they enjoyed going all out with Halloween costumes, paddling for dragon boat teams, and raising dogs.

Bill is survived by his wife, Robin Kelly, his two sons, Billy (Michelle) and Matt (Stephanie), his ex-wife Anna, his sister Diane (Tim), brothers Rick (Barb) and John, his step-brothers Guy Karm and Tim (Jamie) Kelly, many nephews and nieces, and his two grandchildren, William Austin Kelly V and Jocelyn Amber Kelly. In addition to his parents, Bill was preceded in death by his sister Chris Kouzmanoff and his brothers, Roger Kelly and Jimmy Kelly.

Bill’s family is grateful for the following:
Hospice of Dubuque: Jessica Studtman, Melanie, Hayley, Morgan, Stephanie, and Pastor Diane. The team and staff at Midwest Medical Center: Dr. Matthew Gullone, Cory Fleege, and Cindy Kevern. Kathi Monroe with Heal to Thrive. Elite Plumbing and Norm Davis. Linda Ettleman. Dan Green Galena Repair and Maintenance. Your kindness will not be forgotten.

A Celebration of Life will be hosted on May 6th, 2023, from 1:00-5:00 PM at Chestnut Mountain Resort, 8700 W Chestnut Mountain Rd., Galena, IL 61036, in the Mississippi Vista Room.

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