Leaving one’s home country for another takes courage, conviction, and dedication, even when coming to a welcoming country such as Canada. Millions of people have moved here to pursue their dreams, and their success stories add to the rich history and cultural fabric of our great nation.
Leaside residents Joe and Marion Kelly are one such couple with an amazing story of hard work, commitment to family, and community involvement that will continue to give back to our area for generations.
Their story starts between Donegal Bay and the Blue Stack Mountains in the historic picturesque town of Donegal, located in Ulster, Ireland. It was here that Joe and Marion met, became high school sweethearts, and began their journey through life together.
“Joe and I met at a local dance,” says Marion. “Joe had his hair cut in a very trendy Beatles style. After a few years of dating, we made plans to get married, but both of us had ambitions to leave Donegal for greener pastures. Joe found the perfect place for us here in Canada.”
Acting upon the advice of his brother, Joe sought housing and work here in Toronto so he and Marion had a firm foundation to start their life together. In 1973, after one year away, he returned to Ireland to marry her.
“We had a small ceremony in Donegal,” Marion says. “And then we packed up and moved to Toronto the very next day!”
Joe and Marion purchased their first house on Soudan Avenue. Seeing real estate as a great way to provide for the present and build their future in their new country, Joe began buying houses, digging out basements and renovating the upstairs for tenancy while working at his day job. The hours were long, but Joe was known throughout the community as always being cheery and having a positive outlook.
He was also well supported by Marion, who stayed home to raise their four children: Helen, Sharon, Neil, and Joy. The children all attended local schools and went on to attend McMaster, Western, York, and Western Universities, respectively. The Kelly family has now grown to include seven grandchildren: Myah, Hannah, Cooper, Jules, London, Mason, and Kelly.
In 1981, Joe launched his own business, Kelly’s Heating and Air Conditioning, in Leaside. The idea to enter the trades came from his father, Niall Kelly, who recognized Joe’s skills early on.
“Joe has always shown an interest and aptitude in mechanical work,” Marion says. “His skills were so profound that his father suggested he attend trade school in Ireland.”
In the beginning, he worked completely on his own, personally taking phone calls, writing up invoices, and performing all the installation, service, and maintenance work himself. But through determined effort, and with the help of his son Neil, what was once a one-man operation grew over the years into a full-service team of nine employees.
Neil is now the company vice president, running its daily operations. He started working with his father on weekends during his high school years, and then went on to obtain his gas fitters license and bachelor of administrative studies in 2006. Counting his father as his biggest inspiration, Neil continues to provide the honest work, quality craftsmanship, and trusted advice that Joe built the company’s reputation on.
In 1985, the family settled in the old church house beside St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church on Bayview Avenue. This home has since been converted into offices that house both Kelly’s Heating and Air Conditioning and The Bayview Natural Heath Clinic, which is owned by their their daughter, Sharon, who’s now a doctor of naturopathic medicine.
The other two Kelly children are also in the field of health care. Helen earned her degree in nursing and currently works at North York General Hospital. Joy graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in sociology of health and aging, and is currently on maternity leave.
Despite commitment to their various careers, the Kelly family, now numbering 17 in total, makes sure to get together at Joe and Marion’s house for pizza night every Friday. They also travel as a group, having made annual visits to Aruba for the past 20 years. Joe and Marion now spend their winters there, but are never alone for long as their children and grandchildren all come to visit throughout the winter months.
Following local sports such as the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Maple Leafs is another favourite pastime, as is sponsoring local baseball and hockey teams. The family also co-sponsors the Bessborough Drive Elementary and Middle School Fun Fair each year.
It’s these acts of working together and giving back that have integrated the Kellys into our community, a spirit that Joe sums up quite nicely.
“We have always loved this neighbourhood,” he says. “Community has always been important to us, and we’ve always supported local business and in turn have been supported as well. Leaside has a real sense of peace, community, and security, and all with a small town feel. The small boutiques, wide choice of restaurants, and truly caring people make this a great neighbourhood to live in!”
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