Thomas Kelly Wetzel (Kelly) died at East Jefferson Hospital on Nov. 7 at 11:30 a.m. Kelly was born on Sept. 16, 1945, to Ilma Mollere Wetzel and Wilbert James Wetzel in New Orleans, La. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Cathey LaNasa Wetzel; his sister-in-law, Carol M. LaNasa; brother-in-law, John Collins; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and godchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents (Wilbert and Ilma) and his siblings (Wilbert J. Wetzel Jr., Mary Wetzel Collins and Carl Michael Wetzel).
Kelly graduated from St. Charles Borromeo School (1959), De La Salle High School (1963), Loyola University (1967), LSU master’s degree (1969) and Loyola Law School (1974). As an undergraduate at Loyola, he was a member of the ROTC for four years and, after graduation, went into the Army (Ordnance Corps), where he attained the rank of captain. The Ordnance Corps is a technical Army specialization that tests a soldier’s ability to maintain a calm demeanor and make quick decisions — a perfect fit for Kelly’s personality. After his tour of duty in the Army, he attended Loyola Law School, where he earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.).
While in law school, Kelly clerked at the firm of Hammett, Leake and Hammett. After receiving his J.D. from Loyola Law School, Kelly was deputy clerk for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. Following the Fourth Circuit, he was a litigation attorney at Exxon for 20 years and retired from Exxon in 2000. After Exxon, Kelly worked as an attorney at the Kean Miller law firm in Baton Rouge, La. He was an active member of the Louisiana Bar Association for 48 years.
Kelly and his wife were lifelong residents of New Orleans and Harahan, La. They spent Army days in Aberdeen, Md., and Huntsville, Ala. While in law school, they dreamed of a home someday in Colorado. That dream was fulfilled when, in 1997, they purchased a condo, then a home and finally built a Victorian home in Pagosa Springs, Colo., where they would reside for several months of the year.
Kelly was an avid oil painter. His works included Louisiana swamp scenes, magnolias and still life. The paintings hang in his home and the homes of numerous friends and relatives. Paintings on glass were also a favorite hobby. His other passion was model railroading, which kept him busy for hours building and rebuilding railroad layouts. History was a favorite interest of his and he continued that study throughout his life.
Kelly was devoted to his faith, his family, his friends and his dogs. He was a kind, generous and compassionate man. He was always ready to help someone or lend a hand. Kelly had a strong spiritual side and he practiced his Catholic faith always. While still a young man, he attended St. Benedict Seminary for two and a half years. He and Cathey took two pilgrimages to Medjugorje in the ‘80s. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Cooking skills were honed when he worked his way through law school as a waiter at T. Pittari’s restaurant on Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. Pralines and old fashioneds were his trademark specialties.
He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. Eternal peace to you, dear Kelly. May you be with God and the angels.
Funeral services were held at St. Dominic Church, New Orleans, La., on Tuesday, Nov. 15, followed by funeral Mass and interment at Lake Lawn Park Mausoleum.
Donations may be made in the name of Thomas Kelly Wetzel to the Trista Nauman Memorial Scholarship, c/o Build Pagosa, P.O. Box 5363, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.