It was love at first sight for Trena Griffin.
The 24-year-old hairdresser had gone to The Grand Ball Room in Amarillo, Texas with girlfriends.
It was there she spied a young dashing 22-year-old Army Air Corps solider.
“I’m going to marry that man,” Trena said to her friends as she pointed across the dance floor.
That man was Jack Kelley.
They ended up dancing the night away as both loved swing music as much as they loved life.
That was 70 years ago this month in December of 1945. Three months later Jack and Trena were married. The love that brought them together would spread to others in the ensuing 61 years before Jack’s beloved Trena was called home in 2006.
Jack was reunited with Trena on Nov. 19, 2015.
Jack and Trena were the proverbial Mr. and Mrs. Community Service. Trena through her election as the first woman mayor in Manteca history and her tireless advocacy for youth and seniors through Mary Graham Hall and Meals and Wheels and countless other endeavors while Jack served 22 years on the Manteca Unified School District board.
Jack would tell you his biggest role was supporting his bride. It is true, after all, that behind every good woman is a good man.
Jack’s life is being celebrated Saturday, Dec. 19, at 1 p.m. at Sequoia Heights Baptist Church on South Union Road in Manteca.
It may surprise some to know that Jack and Trena were Manteca’s equivalent of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Their children knew their love of dance firsthand as Miles, Kalleen, Lori, and Kathleen literally spent their youth dancing up a storm in their home.
It was a home, by the way, that wasn’t just the domain of the four Kelley kids.
Jack and Trena made it a way of life to always have their door open to those in need of a place to stay. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving or Christmas without some wayward soul — often teens in search of a safe harbor — breaking bread at the Kelley table.
Jack’s burning passion to help youth was manifested in his 28-year career working with the California Youth Authority serving much of that time at the Fricot Ranch for Boys in the foothills.
It was there that both Jack and Trena double-downed on efforts to do what they could in the community to help make sure that youth didn’t go down the path that leads to places like the CYA.
They were the ultimate Manteca power couple when it came to helping kids.
But there was a lot more to Jack and Trena besides being able to trip the light fantastic, being devoted servants of the Lord, helping youth and being doting, loving parents.
It may be hard to picture, but Jack was a motorcycle enthusiast. He’d take Trena along on rides on his Honda 750cc often going as far as Grants Pass, Ore.
In his later years, Jack was a well-known fixture on the Manteca garage sale circuit with Trena’s sister’s husband Johnny Kinnison making the rounds in Jack’s two-seater raspberry Chevy Geo convertible. Jack on his garage sale trips — as well as in the rest of his life — never met anyone he couldn’t engage in warm conversation.
Perhaps the best way to define who Jack was is offered up by his son-in-law John Tubbs.
Tubbs will tell you that there are two people in life — those that see their glass half full and those that see it as half empty. Tubbs tells people that his father-on-law was a man who always saw his glass as full to the brim.
Illustrating that point was how Jack viewed his World War II experience. Despite being wounded in the South Pacific and earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star during five years of fighting, he didn’t view the war as pure hell. Instead he dwelled on the good stuff: The comradery. The acts of kindness. The unselfish bravery. Like most war veterans, Jack didn’t talk about his war experiences until much later in life. But when he did it was to dwell on the positive.
And like hundreds of thousands of fellow soldiers, Jack returned home to not simply start a family but to serve his fellow man
Jack was the even keel one helping balance Trena’s trademark passion that allowed her to leave a positive imprint not just on the lives of youth and seniors for generations but the City of Manteca as well.
As you read this Jack and Trena are dancing up a storm in the heavens while their love and devotion to others still help warm countless hearts and souls on earth.