Daniel F. Kelleher, gamemaster, golfer, and lover of family, fun, and a good, clean joke
Daniel F. Kelleher, 87, a long-time resident of Harvard, Mass., passed away on Jan. 12, 2024, after a short illness. Beloved father, Papa, brother, uncle, and friend, Dan was best known for his intelligence and kindness, his integrity, and his ability to listen well and offer sage advice. The son of the late John and Catherine (Curran) Kelleher, he reunites in heaven with his loving wife of 55 years, Joan Kelleher, who died in 2018.
The couple raised two children, Mark D. Kelleher, who lives in Natick with his wife, Kim, and Kristen K. O'Reilly, who lives in Groton, Mass., with her husband, Jim. He leaves five grandchildren, Maryelizabeth Point (and her husband Zach Point), Julianne and Alex Kelleher, and Meghan and Patrick O'Reilly; brothers John Kelleher of Saco, Maine, and Neil Kelleher of Somerville; sister Mary Drew, of Somerville; several nieces and nephews; and many friends. He was predeceased by his sister Eileen Kelleher.
Dan was called “the gamemaster” for his love of organizing family games at holiday gatherings. He laughed easily and especially appreciated a good, clean joke. He always looked for ways to have fun—well into his late 70s, he skied with Joan at Mt. Wachusett, biked on local rail trails, and ballroom danced on the senior center circuit, where the couple impressed with considerable skills on the dance floor.
He earned an engineering degree at Tufts University where he ran track, winning every high hurdle sprint race as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, and all but one as a senior. Although he was the middle child of five, he was the first in his family to go to college, commuting from home and working as a security guard at night to earn his tuition money.
In another life, he might have been a teacher, history professor, writer, coach, or gameshow host, since he showed the skills required of all those professions. Instead, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as an engineer at the Natick Labs, which is where he met Joan. He then worked as the head of manufacturing at two gauging companies, starting at LFE Corporation in Waltham. With his oldest child about to enter college, he took a risk and joined a start-up founded by several principals from LFE, called Aeonics, where he worked for almost two decades. Despite being a workaholic who thought nothing of staying late or going in on weekends to get the job done, he slid easily into retirement without a backward glance.
A lifelong golfer, he played in after-work leagues for his entire career, and then in two leagues after retirement at Twin Springs Golf Course in Bolton. When not on the course, he was practicing with plastic balls in his backyard in a Quixotic quest to perfect his swing. He never took a mulligan, and always counted every stroke, even when no one was looking—a true test of character.
Later in life, he was a regular at many Harvard Council on Aging events and particularly looked forward to the Wednesday morning Men’s Coffee, where he enjoyed chatting with fellow seniors about a wide variety of topics. A man of few words, he listened carefully and contributed insightfully to a conversation.
Dan also had a stubborn streak. He refused to move from his house on Park Lane, where he lived for 47 years, despite the impracticality of navigating a big house with multiple staircases. In fact, he only lived in three houses his entire life, his childhood home in Somerville and a starter home in Framingham being the other two. His stubbornness also played a part in his ability to fight back from the many health challenges he faced over the years.
He enjoyed supporting all the local pro sports teams, especially the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics, and faithfully attended and cheered at every athletic, dance, and musical event of his children and grandchildren.
Family and friends will gather to honor and remember Dan for a period of visitation on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Badger Funeral Home, 347 King Street, Littleton. His funeral service will follow at 11:30 a.m. at St Mark’s Episcopal Church, 75 Cold Spring Road, Westford. The interment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Dan’s name can be made to the Friends of the Harvard Council on Aging, PO Box 474, Harvard, MA 01451.
Arrangements under the care of Badger Funeral Home, 347 King Street, Littleton, MA 01460 978-486-3709 www.badgerfuneral.com.