Michael Gene Kelley

Michael Gene Kelley

Michael Gene Kelley was born on Saturday, January 6, 1951, at Union County Hospital, in Anna, Illinois. 

He crossed over into God’s Heavenly embrace at 11:47 a.m. on Sunday, May 5, 2024, at his lifetime home in Cobden, Illinois, surrounded by his wife, Kim and his Brandy Girl. Mike was 73 and succumbed to death after an exceptionally long, courageous and hard-fought battle with dementia.

Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 11, 2024, at Rendleman & Hileman Funeral Home in Jonesboro. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., the time of the service. Lifelong friend and pastor, Bobby Dover will be giving the eulogy. 

Per Mike’s request, he will be cremated so there will be no burial. Mike also made a request for everyone to dress casually.

Family and friends are asked to come and help pay tribute to Mike during a Celebration of Life immediately following the funeral service. The service will be held at the Kelley home. This will be a time to pay tribute to the wonderful man Mike was and to glimpse the complexities and depths of a seemingly simple man.

Mike was the youngest child and only son born to Luetta and Cecil Kelley. He had two older sisters, Joann and Ginger. Mike worked in the shadow of his dad while growing up. He learned to make hay, care for livestock, plant crops and simply love and respect the land that his parents both cherished. 

During his formative years, Mike would come home from school, change clothes and head out to help his dad with the farm work.

After high school graduation, he always held a full-time job away from the farm but never let farming go. He would work all day and then come home to make hay, care for cattle or tend to the never-ending issues of farm life.  

When his father, Cecil, was forced into retiring, Mike picked up the slack by dedicating more of his time to the farm. Mike worked on the farm until his health simply would not allow him to continue. He sadly sold his cattle, farm implements and allowed another to come in and make the hay. This was a tough time for Mike, farming was an important part of both his identity and family heritage.

After graduating from Alto Pass High School in 1969, Mike entered the work force. He worked at a mobile home manufacturer and then worked with a master carpenter building new houses. 

On January 8, 1977, Mike started his career with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Initially, Mike worked at Menards in Chester, but later transferred to Vienna and later to the Tamms Supermax. After a severe motorcycle accident on Sunday, September 16, 2001, he reluctantly retired in 2002.

Mike first met Kimberly (Kim) Balsmann in October 1982, they fell in love immediately and were engaged by March of 1983. They married on October 6 of 1983 and have been dedicated to each other throughout the years. They loved each other deeply and unconditionally. Their love was true, uncomplicated and eternal. No doubts, Mike will be waiting for Kim at Heaven’s gates when God calls her home. He will have a million things to show her and another million to tell her.

Mike genuinely loved his life and enjoyed it to the fullest. Some might look at Mike’s life and say it was mundane and filled with simple pleasures. Mike did not need a lot to be happy. He knew what the important things were: family, friends and love. If those things could be measured, he would have undoubtedly been one of the richest men that ever lived.

He loved traveling, riding his Harley, farming, experiencing new things, but most of all, simply spending time with his family and friends. 

Mike also enjoyed eating. He was a “Foodie,” before being a “Foodie” was even a thing. He was usually the last to finish a meal because he ate slowly and savored each bite.  Dan, Kim’s brother, always fried fish, and Mike would grab a cold Busch beer and position himself near Dan. Dan always fed Mike the fish right out of the hot oil. Dan liked to see Mike eat and Mike liked to eat so they complemented each other perfectly.

Mike and Kim were not blessed with children of their own. However, they had their “kids” that Mike loved and adored. Many people do not have children of their own who are as loving, caring and dedicated as Shalin and Brandy (Brooklyn and Shepherd) and Jesse and Jessie (Caleb and Dallas) were to Kim and Mike.   

The kids always made sure that Aunt Kim and Uncle Mike had everything they needed. They traveled for hours to come and help with chores, home repairs, cut wood and prepare for winter, and simply to hang out and make new family memories. 

Mike loved and adored each of them, but especially had a soft spot in his heart for his “Brandy Girl.” Brandy showered her Uncle Mike with love and was always patient and understanding with him and his many medical and life needs.  She made many solo trips to help her Aunt Kim with Uncle Mike. Brandy showed genuine concern for Mike, and he loved his Brandy Girl very much.

Mike also had a special caregiver, Sara Currie, that he loved spending time with. Sara would take him for walks to the greenhouse, or to look for rocks in the creek. Sara and Mike would watch CNN in earlier months and Mike would make funny comments about all the politicians.

Mike had many, many longtime friends. This was evident during his surprise birthday party that Kim threw him the year he turned 50.  Kim rented the VFW in Anna, and it was packed with people there to wish him a happy birthday.  

Mike also loved his furry kids which include Kitty Rose, Lucy II, Benji, Angel and Gizzy. Others that have crossed and will be waiting for him at the Rainbow Bridge include Max, Beau, Bull Puppy, Lucy I, Baba, Big Cat, Oliver-the Pig. 

Mike is survived by his wife, Kim of Cobden; his “kids” - Special Nephews: Shalin and Brandy Gieson (Shepherd and Brooklyn) of North Little Rock, Arkansas, and, Jesse and Jessie Gieson (Caleb and Dallas) of Columbia, Missouri; Sister-in-law, Cindy Balsmann (Lee Flanagan) of Cape Girardeau, Mo; Niece Mo Patterson and fiancé Travis Boxdorfer (Dan, Alice and Waylon) of Perryville, Mo.; Nephew - Tyson and Genessa Gieson  (Hope, Paige and Nathan) of Warrenton, Mo.; Sister, JoAnn and Tom White of Anna, Ill.; Nephews - Andrew White of Cobden, Ill.; and, Stephen White of Prescott, Arizona.

Mike is also survived by close friends that he considered part of his “Family.”  Joe and Helen Gresham of Ava, Illinois, and Curt and Kim Guetersloh of Jacob, Illinois, have been longtime friends. 

Throughout the decades many great memories have been made. There were trips to Mexico, camping excursions, New Year’s Eve Celebrations, birthdays and unfortunately goodbyes to family members and friends. Together they laughed a million times and cried a thousand tears. Throughout the years, they have supported each other through both the good and bad, just like families do.

Mike was preceded in death by both of his parents- Mother - Luetta Kelley; and Father - Cecil Kelley; Sister - Ginger Kelley; Mother-in-law - Edna Balsmann; Father-in-law - Bill Balsmann; Brother-in-law - Dan Balsmann; Sister-in-law - Linda Gieson; Brother-in-law - Bill Gieson; and great-nephew Johnathan Floyd Boxdorfer.  Mike has had many close friends that have crossed over throughout the years. 

Mike’s ashes will be returned to the place where he was born, raised and passed. In the future both he and Kim will be entombed with Kim’s parents (Edna and Bill Balsmann) at the Cape County Memorial Park in Cape Girardeau, Mo. 

Those people that chose never to take the time to really get to know the wonderful man Mike was, missed out. In today’s world, a kind, caring, loving, and accepting person, like Mike, is a rarity. He was old school and has been a bright light in the lives of so many people. He made people feel loved, appreciated and noticed. Mike rarely said a negative word about anyone...and if he did, he made the comment in a very unjudgmental and often joking way. It was like getting hit with a wet noodle - it didn’t hurt much.

Everyone that Mike met loved him. He was a bright shining beacon of hope to the world. If everyone could emulate the goodness of Mike oh how great the world would be.  Thank you for making our lives and our world better just by being you.  God speed, Mike. We will all see you on the other side...

A special thanks goes out to all the wonderful Hospice staff, but especially to Amanda and Toni. You enriched the end of Mike’s life and helped Kim, and the rest of the family, cope during this tough time.                                                 

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

To view the obituary and to leave online condolences for the family, visit www.rendlemanhilemanfh.com. 

Rendleman & Hileman Funeral Home in Jonesboro is in charge of arrangements.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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