We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Norwell
M. David Kelleher, MD
Mark David Kelleher (David) was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts on August 5th, 1936. He led a fulfilling and accomplished life until he passed away peacefully on September 7th in Boston, MA.
David shared his childhood with his twin sister Sandra and his revered older sister, Pat. He had many stories of boyhood adventures in Winchester and Haverhill, making the most mundane tasks fun and creating things as often as he could. Christmas was a favorite holiday going back to childhood, when, having no money to buy gifts, he handmade gifts for each of his family members. Over the years, he continued to lovingly hand craft furniture and paintings to give as gifts. He always delighted in Christmas preparations and celebrations.
David was very proud to have earned scholarships to Phillips Andover Academy for his final two years of high school and to Harvard University. David graduated Harvard six years after starting there, as he took a full year off twice to earn money to pay for his junior and senior years. During these working years, he held two full time jobs simultaneously. This was fortuitous, because while in his final year before he returned to Harvard, he worked at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he met and fell instantly in love with his to-be wife of 53 years, Elizabeth Frances Callahan. As the story goes, he used to visit “Betty” where she worked for the head of infectious disease. He would find reasons to go visit her and to “hang around” where she worked. He was kind, confident, charming and persistent and she finally stopped “going steady on the weekends” with another young man, so that she could go out with David. Their first date was to the legendary Mr. Bartley’s Burgers in Harvard Square. On their first Valentine’s Day together, shortly after they met, they unknowingly purchased the same card for each other. It stated “Valentine, you’re something else....but I’m not sure what!”— a preview of the devoted yet humor-filled love they would always share. Starting with few financial resources, their love and hard work carried them through. A favorite story to tell was when he and Betty were driving home from their honeymoon in Lake George, NY, they stopped to get gas and did not have enough money to fill the tank. Before the time of direct deposits, they both had paychecks waiting for them back in Boston, but they had very little cash on them. A kind stranger filled their tank for them, allowing them to return home to begin their married life.
Together with Betty’s steadfast support, David forged his way through Boston University Medical School, graduating with a medical degree in 1965. He did his internship and residency at University Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) and then joined with colleagues to build a private internal medicine practice in Chestnut Hill. He also worked as a physician for the Occupational Medicine department at the Gillette headquarters in South Boston, and at their executive offices in the Prudential Center. He worked his final years before retirement for Commonwealth Medical Group. Dr. Kelleher was a beloved internist and earnestly worked to improve the lives of all his patients by not only optimizing their physical health, but also taking great pride in supporting their emotional health and family relationships. Because of his and Betty’s hard work and careful saving over the years, he was positioned to retire early at the age of 60 in 1996. Having worked through the previous few years under the emergence of managed care, David was disheartened not to be able to practice medicine how he wanted, so he bravely and gracefully exited the profession.
David embraced being a father as a serious undertaking but also a cherished adventure. His and Betty’s first child was born while he was still in medical school. Four more kids followed over the next 11 years, meaning that they had at least one child in the house for nearly 30 years. While focused on raising their children to be hard working, frugal, disciplined, generous, independent thinkers who had a concern for those other than themselves, he brought to the role plenty of fun like skating on the frozen Atlantic Ocean in Quincy, building a giant raised winding sledding route in the backyard, making alien spaceships out of styrofoam fast food packaging and straws, making figurines out of acorns and toothpicks, blowing bubbles with his mouth and playing the hand slap game to keep kids occupied during church.
Valuing education so highly, David and Betty worked hard to ensure each of their five children could attend college while incurring no debt. In their retirement years they bestowed the same generous gift upon their four grandchildren, lovingly ensuring that there would be no financial barriers to their higher education.
In addition to his wife and his children, one of the other greatest sources of joy in David’s life was the 1800’s Norwell farmhouse he and Betty purchased in disrepair in 1971. Over the next 20 years, he spent much of his free time renovating the house room by room, including laying flooring, rebuilding walls, doing woodworking, painting and furnishing each in the Colonial style. He designed and did the updates on his own, with only the help of Betty and his kids. Along the way he learned carpentry, furniture making, electrical and plumbing. He also dedicated countless hours and endless energy to creating spectacular perennial and wildflower gardens in every corner of the property. He delighted in spending full days outside weeding, planting, chopping firewood, chipping brush, mowing the lawn, tending to the fruit trees, and harvesting vegetables. He would come in the house drenched in sweat, often having forgotten to eat, fueled only by the water, lemonade and Pepsi Free his wife and kids would regularly bring out to him. He cut paths through the woods and covered them with wood chips, allowing for his daily stroll through, in all weather, to see what was in bloom. Anyone who came to visit was first treated to a walk around the garden and woods, before any other activity could begin. In his retirement years, he delighted in the house and gardens he had created, as well as the barn he had built for him in the 1990s. It was a combination barn/arts studio, with the basement housing all of the woodworking tools and pottery wheel, the first floor housing Betty’s loom and yarn, and the top floor housing his painting studio and greenhouse.
In addition to renovating and maintaining their beloved homestead, David always dabbled in the visual arts with sketching, pastels, charcoal and most prominently, oil painting. In his retirement years, he became an accomplished oil painter, holding art shows and selling his works. His favorite subjects were his gardens, his wife, still lifes and landscapes. He and Betty would often spend time in the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, World’s End in Hingham or the Garden in the Woods in Framingham to enjoy the scenery and to find inspiration for his painting. He loved helping his local children with their household projects and gardens as well, often digging up plants from his own yard to transplant them in his children’s gardens.
Always up for a walk in the woods or on the beach, David enjoyed moving and staying fit. During his working years he enjoyed playing squash with medical colleagues. He also became quite accomplished in fencing, and would train with his mentor in the halls of the Gillette manufacturing facility a couple of times a week. Most of this he did in his signature penny loafers!
Always an avid reader, his later years were filled with many good reads, and as he was less able to pursue his many hobbies and interests, he turned his intellect and enthusiasm to jigsaw puzzles. His favorite puzzle subjects included beautiful landscapes and images of adorable animals.
Beloved pets over the years included dogs: Snoopy, Holly, Mochi and the cherished Biscuit, a few cats he tolerated, as well as Princess Abigail “Abby”, the sweet Appaloosa pony he cared for even years after his children had grown up and moved away.
David and Betty enjoyed a lifetime of love and devotion. In their retirement years, they did some traveling and spent many hours in each other’s company, enjoying going to the theater, marveling at nature, enjoying their individual hobbies, dining out together, and visiting their children and grandchildren. David faced Betty’s devastating ALS diagnosis in 2007 with his signature bravery, optimism and determination. He lovingly cared for her for the next seven and a half years, being her primary caregiver most days and nights, including two years while she was at home on life support. He would do anything for her and so did not complain, just cherished each moment and gave his best to her every single day.
David had a few years after Betty’s passing to continue to pursue his interests before he had to face his own Alzheimer’s disease. He was cared for lovingly and skillfully at home by Celtic Angels for more than a year and for over two and a half years at Allen House in the Springhouse Senior Living community in Boston. The staff at Springhouse ensured he was content and still enjoying things he loved like walks outside, gardening, painting, puzzling, dancing, singing and telling stories about his life, his beloved wife, and the children and grandchildren of whom he was so proud. He gained a great community of friends at Springhouse, including special friends with whom he was happy to share his days. Peace of Mind Home Care and Good Shepherd Hospice were a wonderful support to both David and his family, always focusing on his dignity and comfort in his final weeks.
A member of St. Helen’s parish in Norwell and later St. Paul’s parish in Hingham, David found comfort in attending weekly Sunday Mass for as long as he could and generously supported the Catholic Church throughout his lifetime.
He is predeceased by his mother Kathryn Gray Kelleher, his father Charles Porter Kelleher, Jr., his sister Cathlyn Patricia (Pat) Field formerly of Townsend, Montana, and his beloved wife Elizabeth Callahan (Betty) Kelleher. He is survived by and will be greatly missed by his children Siobhan Kelleher and her husband Robert Torres of Roslindale, Massachusetts, Judy Davis and her husband Joe of Wrentham, Massachusetts, Mark Kelleher of Louisville, Colorado, Heather Izanec and her husband Peter of Pepper Pike, Ohio, and Lisa Kelleher and her husband David Hamblen of Hull, Massachusetts. Grandpa David fiercely loved and will forever be remembered fondly by his grandchildren Lauren and Katie Izanec, and Eliot and Benjamin Davis. He is also survived by his twin sister Sandra Kelleher Walker of Utah, formerly of Lexington, Massachusetts and Hill, NH.
A funeral service will be held at St. Paul’s Church in Hingham on Friday, September 16th at 10am. Internment at St. Paul’s Cemetery. Those wishing to share their condolences are encouraged to attend the funeral, as there will be no visiting hours or reception. In honor of Dr. Kelleher's lifelong interest in public health and in protecting the vulnerable in our community, masks are requested while inside the church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Phillips Andover Academy, Springhouse Senior Living, Good Shepherd Hospice, the American Indian College Fund or the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program.