Jon Kelly Lee, 68, ended his long struggle with Alzheimer's on May 21, 2014 in Bozeman. He was the husband of Bonnie Lee and the beloved father of four children. Kelly was born in Great Falls, Mont. on Feb. 4, 1946, to Don and Mary (Greer) Lee. The family settled in Bozeman in 1955 when Don accepted a teaching job at MSU (then MSC). In 1958, the entire family embarked on an adventurous year in the Philippines while Don worked to improve their agricultural practices. While adapting to this new life and culture, Kelly learned to play tennis and swam in the ocean daily (even swimming from a small shark once). Kelly was greatly inspired by this life-changing experience and the kindness of the Filipino people.
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Kelly graduated from Bozeman High in 1965, where he excelled in art and tennis. He then went on to attend Montana State University, first studying art, then industrial arts. He worked for Don Norm Chevrolet as a service manager from 1974-1979 until his educational background guided him back to his passion for art. After working many years as an employee in sign shops around Bozeman, Kelly branched out on his own and opened Kelly Signs in 1995. He was the consummate craftsman, known for his distinctive hand painted script, meticulous woodwork and beautiful etched glass. His incredible artwork is on display throughout the state and the Bozeman community.
Kelly was passionate about music. While in college, he played bass guitar in a rock band with three friends. The Barons played numerous college dances, and frequently performed in local bars. Kelly enjoyed all types of music and was known to say, "If you can't feel it in your chest, it's not loud enough."
Kelly was a wealth of knowledge when it came to military aircraft and anything related to cars, especially stock cars. He spent decades involved with the stock car racing association starting as a driver. Eventually he moved on to become a very popular announcer at the Belgrade Speedway.
In addition, Kelly treasured the great outdoors. He was our fearless leader on many family camping trips. A favorite memory was the epic summer the family went camping every single weekend. Kelly enjoyed spending time hiking, collecting rocks, and photographing nature.
Kelly was a fan of the absurd. He loved to laugh and have a raucous good time. Some great memories involve his many years as a member of the Bozeman Fraternal Order of the Elks and the wild antics at the annual Red Red Rose.
Kelly cherished his time with family and watching his eight grandkids play sports and run around. He could frequently be found playing board games or cards with the family, washing a grandkid's bike, and even giving them a ride on his motorcycle. Kelly was always the first one to help a friend or family member in need, and lived his life with kindness and unconditional love. Kelly is survived by his wife of 40 years, Bonnie Lee; children, Stefany (Damien) Pitman of Cortland, N.Y., Matthew (partner, Kathrina Estoque) of Seattle, Wash., Shannon (Vince) Skurdal of Boise, Idaho, and Shawn (Toi) Gebhart of Des Moines, Iowa; grandchildren, Oliver and Isaac Pitman, Ryan and Logan Skurdal, and Apryl, Cheyenne, Serena, and Nathan Gebhart; brothers, Robert (Joyce) Lee, Clyde (Andrea) Lee, and Mac (Diana) Lee; sister, Susan (Pat) Teague; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles. Kelly was preceded in death by his parents, Don and Mary Lee; sister, Patsy Lee; and brother, Bill Lee.
The family would like to thank the wonderful staff at Spring Creek Inn in Bozeman for their support and loving care of Kelly during his time there.
Please join the family in celebrating the wonderful life of Kelly Lee. A service will be held at the Bozeman United Methodist Church, 121 South Willson Ave, Bozeman, MT, on Monday, May 26 at 1:30 p.m. Those who attend are welcome to wear shades of purple, Kelly's favorite color and the color representing Alzheimer's Awareness.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations be made either to The
, Montana Chapter, 3010 11th Ave North, Billings, MT, 59101-0726, or to Family Promise of Gallatin Valley, PO Box 475, Bozeman, MT, 59771-0475.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service, www.dokkennelson.com.
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on May 23, 2014