JOHN FRANCIS Kelly loved the sea.
He loved it so much that he turned down a chance to run for business agent of the Sailors' Union of the Pacific, despite urging from fellow seamen, because it would have meant spending too much time on land.
As a 44-year member of the Merchant Marine, Jack, as he was best known, "made the world his pearl," said his brother, James M. Kelly, of Aston.
Jack died Nov. 30 after a brief bout of cancer that hit him "like a perfect storm," as his brother put it.
"His illness struck like a tsunami, little warning, swift and deadly," his brother said.
Jack was 63 and was living in Honolulu. A native of Mayfair, his travels had taken him from Philly to New Orleans, to San Francisco, and finally to Hawaii.
Jack was born in Philadelphia to Eugene P. and Isabella Kelly. He attended St. Matthew's Parochial School, Father Judge High School and Abraham Lincoln High before heading out to sea.
He was an outstanding athlete in his youth, playing baseball and basketball for neighborhood leagues.
While he never married, Jack was rarely without a romantic attachment, some in the ports he visited as a seaman.
He was an Irishman with the Irish charm and blarney that endeared him to people wherever he went.
When brother Jim visited him in Hawaii in 2006, "it was apparent that he was the unofficial mayor of downtown Honolulu," Jim Kelly said.
"Wherever we went, Jack greeted and was greeted by the postman, store clerks, parking lot attendants, the local priest, the cop on the beat and the street people who were benefactors of Jack's generosity.
"Jack's heart was larger than his 6-2, 190-pound body.
"Jack was a devout Catholic, who was loved and admired by whomever and wherever he was met and, according to his fellow seamen, in whatever port he was in he hobnobbed with celebrities from the world of sports and entertainment.
"He had a winning smile and captivating personality. In a word, he had 'charisma.' "
Although Jack had limited formal education, he was well-read in many subjects, including philosophy, as he sought to understand the world he had seen so much of.
"On preparing for a voyage, Jack would pile up on books, and not just from Borders-type stores," Jim said. "He would go to the local college and buy books on various subjects, not only to read, but to study. As a result, he could converse and expound on just about any subject."
Jack's travels and his personality made him known all over the world.
"When word spread of his hospitalization, over 100 cell phone calls came in from the Atlantic and Pacific and lesser bodies of water, wishing Jack the best of health and to get better soon," said Jim, a former Philadelphia police officer and retired federal agent.
A cousin, retired Family Court Judge Jerome A. Zaleski, said that Jack "was a joy to be around."
"I was very impressed by him," Zaleski said. "He had a great personality and he was very knowledgeable about social and political issues. He was tuned in to whatever major issues were going on."
Besides his brother, Jack is survived by another brother, Joseph Kelly.
At his request, no funeral service is planned. His ashes will be spread in the Pacific off the coast of San Francisco. *