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On a winter day, in January 1939, the son of an Italian immigrant from Austria, Joseph McKelley, and his wife welcomed a baby girl into the world and named her Ada Leona, after her mother. She was the fifth child and second daughter in the family. Little Leona was delightful child, with red hair and freckles.
Leona was raised on the family’s farm in Shelley, Idaho, where she learned the value of hard work, resourcefulness, and sacrifice early in life. As a child, one job was to deliver lunch to her father by riding bareback, and without a bridle. Leona’s mom would place her on the horse, slap the horse on the rump and it would find its way to her father working in the fields. Another slap on the rump from dad would send the horse back home. As she grew older, instead of a horse, Leona drove a car. Because the car had no brakes, a strategically placed hay stack stopped the car on the return home.
She attended Shelley High School where played the clarinet in the high school band and graduated in 1957.
During that same year, she met Dean Hall, a handsome young man who liked to play the guitar and sing. Dean had just returned from serving in Japan in the Marine Corps when they met and he was six years her senior. So at first he looked upon Leona as a little sister, taking her to and from work.
As a 17 year old, she began working for the telephone company in Idaho Falls as a switchboard operator, where she worked beside Alice Hall (Holden). Alice often spoke to her coworkers about her son’s new girlfriend, and just like most mothers she thought that this girlfriend was not quite good enough for her son. Leona just kept quiet. It wasn’t until they were officially introduced did Alice learn that Leona was that girlfriend.
Dean and Leona were married on November 22, 1957 and raised six children together. The marriage was solemnized in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple in 1975, on their 18th wedding anniversary. Dean was the love of her life. They worked side by side for 43 years as business partners, first as owners in Paramount Cleaners and also in A & L Drapery. Leona was a gifted interior designer and seamstress. She could visualize and create things, using her own ideas although she had no formal education beyond high school. Her skill and creativity earned her the privilege and honor to be the only contractor to provide the draperies in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple for over 40 years.
Leona was devoted to her family and church and was a member of the 13th Ward in Idaho Falls. She served many capacities in the church, but her favorite job was always working in the nursery with the children. Leona was selfless in her generosity and compassion. Not being rich in material possessions, she spent countless hours sewing quilts and socks for the Idaho Falls Humanitarian Center and serving the needs of those around her. She was never too busy to visit someone who was sick, bring a home cooked holiday meal to a neighbor who was homebound, or provide a taxi service to church or the grocery store for anyone who needed it.
She made a point to make sure every family member had something special for Christmas. She adored each of her 11 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren and went to great lengths to ensure each one received a special quilt from grandma.
Leona passed peacefully on Friday, September 9, 2016. While heaven gains, our world will not be the same. She leaves reflections of her character behind her six children, Barbara Deena (Phil Middleton) of Idaho Falls; Tammy (Clay Keown) of Shelton, Washington; Flint(Johna) of Idaho Falls; Jennifer of West Jordon, Utah, Justin (Julie) of Boise, and Hesston (Kristine Fielding) of Humbolt, Texas.
Funeral services will be held 11:00 A.M. Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at the Idaho Falls North Stake Center, 955 Memorial Drive. The family will meet with friends Monday evening from 6:00 till 7:30 P.M. at Nalder Funeral Home, 110 West Oak in Shelley and Tuesday morning from 9:30 till 10:40 A.M. at the church. Burial will be in the Shelley Hillcrest Cemetery.
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