~ Francis A. Kelly ~
Word has been received at National Headquarters of The American Legion of the recent death of Rev. Francis A. Kelly, the first Elected National Chaplain of The Legion. Father Kelly died October 16. 1931, in Cairo, New York. Where he was pastor of the Sacred Heart Church, as a result of an impairment of health caused by being gassed while in the service during the World War. He was forty-three years of age.
Rev. Kelly was born in Cohoes, and whose early priesthood was in and around Albany, came out of the World War acclaimed as one of the greatest heroes of the day. Known as the “fighting chaplain of the 27th Division,” his work under fire brought him the admiration and love of his “buddies,” and honors from his own and other governments. Many were the stories of self sacrifice by the beloved priest at the greatest personal danger that he failed to heed, that he might administer to the wounded and suffering on the battlefields.
During the war Father Kelly was assigned as a First Lieutenant (Chaplain) U.S. Army. 104th Machine-Gun Battalion, 27th Division, A.E.F.
And later Chaplain of Twenty-Seventh Division, composed of New York National Guard troops. For his outstanding service he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross of the United States, the British Military Cross and several citations. He was commissioned chaplain of the Tenth Infantry, New York National Guard, in May, 1916, and served on the Mexican border. He was called out for service with the same regiment February 4, 1917, and after going overseas he was transferred to Headquarters of the Twenty-seventh Division.
Father Kelly was elected National Chaplain of The Legion at the first National Convention held in Minneapolis, November 1919, which he attended as a delegate from New York. He was selected to perform the ritual of the Catholic Church at the ceremonies incident to the burial of the body of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery at Washington,
D. C. on Armistice Day, 1921. He was a Delegate from Albany County to the 1st Annual Department of New York Convention, October 10-11, 1919, Rochester, NY, and Delegate at Large, 1st National Convention of The American Legion, Minneapolis, MN. 1919.
The funeral for Father Kelly was held Monday and thousands paid tribute to the soldier priest at the funeral service, Mohican Post, No 983, The American Legion, of Cairo, New York, attended the funeral in a body and had charge of the military honors.
Source; American Legion, December 29, 1931. Coxsackie Union News, Oct. 23, 1931
Awarded Citation for Bravery, which reads;
“The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Francis A. Kelly (Chaplain) US Army, for repeated acts of extraordinary heroism in action near Ronssoy, France, September 26-30, 1918, and east of the Le-Salle River, France, October 13-20, 1918.
During operations of his regiment against the Hindenburg line and later east of the Le-Salle River, Chaplain Kelly was constantly at the front, caring for the wounded and supervising the burial of the dead, often under heavy shell and machine-gun fire, his fearless conduct afforded an inspiring example to the combat troops”.
General Order No. 143, W. D. 1918.
Home Town, Cohoes, New York.