CAMDENTON, Mo. — John Lester Kelsey, founder of antique and classic tire distributor Kelsey Tire Inc. and a member of the Tire Industry Hall of Fame, died Sept. 17 at age 79.
A native of Rochester, Minn., Kelsey started his tire industry career in 1969 after a distinguished but short stint in the U.S. Army, during which he earned several commendations including the Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal for his actions serving in Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne.
After discharge, Kelsey went into tire sales, opening a garage-operated business in Camdenton in a building that later became Kelsey Tire headquarters. In the early 1980s, Kelsey closed the mechanic shop and focused instead on the manufacture and distribution of Goodyear classic and antique tires.
The business soon became the exclusive authorized distributor of Goodyear antique and classic tires for vehicles dating from the 1920s through the 1980s.
"He was well-known throughout the tire industry for his knowledge and dedication to the production of antique tires," the Tire Industry Association (TIA) said.
He was inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame in 2009 alongside John Collins, owner of American Crane Inc.
Kelsey was an active member of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Camdenton, a charter member of Camdenton Knights of Columbus and Camdenton Optimist Club.
He's survived by his wife Janice; daughters Ann Doughty and Mary Kelsey; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Allee-Holman-Howe Funeral Home in Camdenton is in charge of arrangements. A Mass Of Christian Burial is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 10 a.m. at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Camdenton.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project at P.O. Box 758516, Topeka, Ark. 66675-8516.