Family, friends remember Ocoee Fire Lt. James Kelley

Mr. Kelley served in the city’s fire department from 1992 to 2017. He died Feb. 4, after a battle with thyroid cancer.

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  • | 7:22 p.m. February 14, 2018
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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OCOEE – You could say James Kelley was a man of many hobbies.

Some included carpentry, collecting antiques, hunting, enjoying the soothing sounds of nature and spending time with friends and family. But, according to those closest to him, his favorite hobby was being the comedic relief and the source of someone’s laughter.

And Mr. Kelley was known for being able to find a way to make anyone laugh. 

He excelled at pranks and jokes, some too inappropriate to share in a newspaper. Although, were he the one writing his own obituary, he likely would have considered making an exception — if only to ensure a smile on someone’s face.

Mr. James Kelley grew up in the city of Ocoee and served the Ocoee Fire Department.
Mr. James Kelley grew up in the city of Ocoee and served the Ocoee Fire Department.

So here’s to Mr. Kelley, a retired Ocoee fire lieutenant who died Feb. 4 after a battle with thyroid cancer that included fearsome dragons and epic sword fights. Mr. Kelley, also known as ‘Stumpy’ to his friends and colleagues for his short stature, is remembered fondly as none other than the “greatest guy on earth” to his loving wife, Charlene Kelley.


“He was a very loving husband and father,” said Charlene, who enjoyed a 27-year marriage to her husband. “He was an amazing friend to everyone he was close to. He would give you the shirt off of his back or the last dollar in his pocket. He absolutely loved to make you laugh. He could make a joke out of anything. His jokes — you would just sit there and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe he just said that.’ It was those type of jokes. But he was just an all-around great guy; the greatest guy on earth.”

Mr. Kelley was born on Aug. 23, 1967, in Winter Garden, and graduated from West Orange High School. He lived most of his life in the city of Ocoee and served the Ocoee community with the city’s fire department for 24 years.

He started working at the department as a volunteer firefighter after listening to various stories of how the firefighters had helped save people. It wasn’t long before a few firefighters employed at the station at the time took him under their wing and helped him become a full-fledged firefighter.

Mr. Kelley worked his way up from firefighter and became an engineer, and later was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 2012 before he retired in June 2017. 


Ocoee Fire Department Battalion Chief Yancy Cleveland, who supervised Mr. Kelley, recalled his dedication to his work, patriotism and involvement in community organizations, for which he spearheaded several fundraisers and initiatives.

Mr. James Kelley.
Mr. James Kelley.

“He was very dedicated to his family, his profession in the fire service and his service to the community,” Cleveland said. “He liked the idea of making a difference. He also did a lot for military veterans; he was very patriotic. He was definitely a man who loved his country and was very involved with the Home for Heroes organization and Habitat for Humanity.”

Although Mr. Kelley was not a military veteran, his younger brother was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines after suffering a leg injury, Charlene said.

“He was very big on the Homes for Heroes program,” she recalled. “I know at one point, he helped some firefighters that had gone and built wheelchair ramps. If you needed help with anything, he never hesitated. His personality was beautiful. He never tried to think negatively; he was always positive. He was my best friend and he was my soul mate and there will never be anyone to replace him. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be the father of my kids.”

Mr. Kelley was interred Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Gotha. He is survived by his wife, Charlene Kelley; his 20-year-old daughter, Courtney Marie-Chaput; and his 11-year-old son, Jacob Bryar Kelley.





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