Services for Sibok Tom Kelly

by Stephen LaBounty (2012-08-20)
Tom Kelly

I am back after a six hour delay in Wichita and on top of United Airlines "losing" my luggage on my inbound trip. So, I enriched the City of Wichita by purchasing clothing at the local K-Mart.

It was a lovely and well done Memorial for Tom Kelly. As per his request, he was cremated with his ashes to be buried at this his son's farm in Oklahoma, where Tom was born and raised. Over 100 people attended at the Pentecostal Church where he was a member for over 13 years. The three Ministers gave wonderful eulogies replete with funny stories and stories of his selfless contribution to programs and needs for the Church. It was great for me to hear these glowing testimonials of my friend and student's great gift to his parish.

I sat on the main "altar" with Gary Swan and was asked to give a bit of history of Tom's beginnings which I did. My student Dennis Conatser supplied me with a summary of Tom's accomplishments which helped tremendously. As I was limited to 10-15 minutes, I just hit on the high points of our relationship and his impressive tournament appearances especially the amount of wins as well.

Since Sibok was in the Marine Corps, Gary Swan was asked to perform a "Call to Duty" roll call of all military personnel serving or not. It is a tradition in the military when a brother Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman, etc., passes that a senior non-com (in this case) calls out the names of those present. Gary is a retired Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army and accepted this task. With a Marine Color guard standing next to the Memorial Table with all of Sibok's Kenpo gear of 48 years, each person called stood up to attention and replied "Present, Sgt. Major" and stood standing. When Tom Kelly's name was called, there was no answer. Sgt. Major Swan called a total of three times. At the end of the last call, Sgt. Swan then said aloud "Sgt. Tom Kelly, you are relieved of duty." Touching to say the least. Then Taps were played as is tradition and has been for over a century.

The Marine Color Guard then folded the American Flag in the traditional triangle shape, the senior Marine knelt before Tom's wife, Mandy, and, thanking her in the name of the President and the U.S. Marine Corps for his service, presented the American Flag to her. Not a dry eye in the place at that point...

The Church, as is their custom of fellowship, prepared a lovely lunch where Sibok was talked about copiously and lovingly. I didn't have to leave until Saturday, so I went to Tom's dojo and sat with his students and talked about the future of his line. In my opinion, they are in great shape. Tom prepared all of his students, from the his first teachings until his death, to move the system forward always, and I believe they will!

I have ordered all of my students to wear a Black Uniform for 30 days in memory of this man who encouraged Mr. Parker to use the Black Gi in the first place. I have not worn black for almost 30 - 35 years (possibly more!), but will do so for him because I know it would make him smile.

"If you take, you must also give, if you give, you must also share, if you share, you have given again but with the love of selflessness"

In spirit, honor and discipline,
Stephen Francis LaBounty