The House Loses Our Biggest Advocate and Founding Board Member – Winter 2014

Tom Kelsey, a 25-year heart transplant and former patient of Don Unverferth, MD, was one of our founding board members, serving as Board Vice President since we opened in 1989. As such, he made Merrill Lynch and its employees integral parts of our organization. However, Tom was mostly a good friend of everyone’s at the House, including Barb Unverferth. One of Barb’s fondest memories of Tom was his excitement after going to a successful meeting with a potential donor. She loves that and all the other moments with Tom, which made the House what it is today.

Of course, many others have fond memories of Tom, too. Kate Vos, a heart transplant social worker at the Medical Center in the 1990s, says of Tom, “He was one of the most grateful transplant recipients I knew.” Once, Tom told her that he’d been given a second chance and wanted to give back. “And give back he did!” Kate says. “He offered support to those waiting for transplants and those going through a rough time after.” She praises his dedication to the House, saying that he fully supported it with money, time and spirit so that, without him, the project might have not have achieved success so quickly. It is because of this enthusiastic support that Kate believes, “Tom was a great guy with a heart of gold.”

Tom instilled his mission for the House into his family and friends. His son Mike Kelsey has served on the board for several years, his son Wes has done projects for the House, including our first YouTube video, and his daughter-in-law volunteers each year at our golf outing. Beyond his caring family, Tom found other talented people to help the House. Board Secretary Kelli Lynn, who has been an essential leader, says “I am one of the lucky ones who got to work with Tom and be part of his team at Merrill Lynch and learn from him. Tom was one of the guys who guided me in my career and is the guy who introduced me to my passion, community service. I will always pay it forward in honor of Tom Kelsey. He had the passion to set goals, live for those goals, move forward, help others and look at every day as a gift.”

Tom passed away on Monday, September 23, 2013. He will be missed, but his legacy will not be forgotten. The Community Room at the House has a plaque in his memory letting everyone who comes to the House know how much he means to our mission.