SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – He was an Air Force veteran, a Savannah firefighter, a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and a father of two boys. On Thursday, The Savannah Fire Department (SFD) honored his life.
Captain Matthew Kelly, Rescue 1, died Monday morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Following a private funeral, Kelly’s unit led a procession from Fox & Weeks Funeral Home to Savannah Fire Headquarters where his last call was dispatched.
The Boston native dedicated more than 25 years to the Savannah Fire Department. Chief Derik Minard says he will remember Kelly for his wit, fruitful morning conversations, and dedication to the community and to his team aboard Rescue 1.
The engine he used to perform technical and water rescues now bears his name.
“When I learned of his diagnosis, my spirit was crushed,” said Chief Minard. “Pancreatic cancer: I knew what that meant. But I held hope. I had faith he would return and continue to lead in the Savannah Fire Department. He was taken too young and far too fast.”
SFD says Kelly chose the music played at the ceremony, which was mostly Jimmy Buffet.
Kelly followed his late father’s footsteps when he became a firefighter. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, his son, Hunter, and stepson, Brennan. Hunter was given the hat his father used while on-duty.
“Captain Kelly knew of the risk, yet Captain Kelly continued in his profession as his desire to serve others was at his core being,” said Minard.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Aldermen Detric Leggett and Nick Palumbo also attended the ceremony to pay their respects.
“[Kelly’s] name will be physically inscribed on monuments in our community,” said Mayor Johnson. “The name Matthew James Kelly will be forever inscribed on our hearts.”
A GoFundMe is set up for the family, if you would like to help.
You can watch the full procession below.