Cornelius Hayes "Neil" Kelleher, 91, of South Hadley, died Oct. 13, 2013. Neil was predeceased by an infant granddaughter, Elizabeth M. Bernard in 1994. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Margaret (Sutton) Kelleher of South Hadley, originally from Norwich, England. Also by their three children, Margaret E. Bernard, her husband Ray and their son, Nicholas, of South Hadley; Patrick J. Kelleher, his wife Meg and their three children, Patrick, Christopher and Haleigh, of Marshfield; Timothy J. Kelleher, his wife Lauren and their three children, Devon, Graeme and Eva, of Watertown; also two sisters-in-law; and several nieces in England. He was born Dec. 15, 1921, in Waterbury, Conn., and lived briefly in nearby Naugatuck. From 1930 he grew up in the Saugatuck section of Westport, Conn., where he graduated from Staples High School. He attended St. Michael's College in Vermont and enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942, training as a radio operator and aerial gunner. After 30 combat missions over Germany as a T/Sgt. in the 8th Air Force, 388th Bomb Group B-17s, he volunteered for advanced radio school. After graduating and awaiting assignment to the Pacific, the war ended. An honorable discharge followed in Oct. 1945. A year later he reenlisted in the Air Force. For over 9 1/2 years he served on select crews in Strategic Air Command B-29, B-50 and B-36 aircraft attaining a superintendent rating as radio operator and electronic counter-measure operator. Another 32 months were spent patrolling the North Atlantic Ocean in RC-121 radar reconnaissance aircraft. His next assignment required attending two weather observer schools. Following graduations and qualifying as a chief weather observer he earned his second superintendent rating, eventually becoming the chief weather observer superintendent for the 8th Air Force when the 8th was headquartered at Westover AFB. He retired there as a Senior Master Sergeant in Nov. 1965. Thereafter he belonged to the Air Force Reserve until honorably discharged in Mar. 1974. Meanwhile he became locally employed, including 12 years serving as industrial engineer at the former Adams Plastics Co. in Holyoke, until retiring in 1986. In his retirement, he enjoyed watching his family grow, spending time with his grandchildren, pursuing his love of Traditional Dixieland Jazz and was always the ultimate do-it-yourselfer. He was very proud to be a lifetime member of the 8th Air Force Historical Society. The funeral for Neil was held Oct. 17, 2013, from the Ryder Funeral Home, followed by a funeral Mass in St. Patrick's Church both in South Hadley. His burial with full military honors followed in the Massachusetts Veteran's Memorial Cemetery in Agawam. Memorial contributions can be made to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, P.O. Box 1992, Savannah, GA 31402, or at www.mightyeighth.org.
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Ryder Funeral Home
33 Lamb Street South Hadley, MA 01075
Published in The Watertown Tab & Press from Oct. 23 to Oct. 30, 2013