Kentucky couple spent 56 years together, then COVID struck and husband died alone

Published 1:33 pm Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Kellys went everywhere together, so much so, Dave always hoped that’s how he and Shirley would go to the grave.

“We’re going together,” he’d tell her, not wanting to live without her.

“That’s the way it’s going to be.”

Dave, 77, of Shepherdsville, was a beloved ice cream man, a master of car repairs and a father of four. He fought in the Vietnam War. He had big brown eyes, and a dynamic sense of humor. He and Shirley ate together, slept together, watched “The Honeymooners” together and went to Kentucky Kingdom together. As a retirement project, they worked in his ice cream truck together for more than a decade.

Most days, you could find Dave smiling behind the wheel of that truck as he drove throughout Bullitt County.

On the day of his funeral, a family friend drove it in the procession in tribute instead.

Shirley went home and tucked a pillow in the empty spot in the bed beside her, so it felt like he was still there.

They’d done everything together for 56 years.

But Dave battled COVID-19 by himself and died in the hospital without her.

I first spoke to Shirley two days before Christmas. She called my newsroom line with a heavy heart after reading a story I’d written about people who were having a difficult time this holiday season.

Her holidays would never be the same, she told me, but really, her whole life wouldn’t either. Her husband was her whole world, the center of her family, the joy in her routine.

When I called her back after the holidays, I heard both their names on the answering machine.

“This is Dave and Shirley Kelly,” it said. It was a message from a simpler, happier time.

He was everything to her, and he was gone.