George Parnell Kellum entered the Kingdom of Heaven on January 31, 2024. A man of many names, “George,” “Mike,” “Papa,” “Kellum,” “Joker,” was a cherished husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, and friend. His family misses him dearly and is honored to share his legacy of sacrifice, service, and devotion.
Kellum was preceded in death by three of his four siblings, Leo Kellum, Myrtle Farley, Odus Kellum, his grandson, John Paul Shannahan, and the love of his life, Mildred Lucille “Lucy” Kellum. He is survived and will be lovingly missed by his sister, Lois Young, and his and Lucy’s four children: Dianna Sigert (and husband Lee) of Willow Springs, MO; Danny Kellum (and wife Deborah) of Tyler, TX; Bert Kellum (and wife Lori) of Baxter Springs, KS; and Phyllis Shannahan (and husband Daniel) of San Angelo, TX. He is also survived by his grandchildren Jubal Sigert, Joshua Sigert, Lindsay Casillas, Ashley Garcia, Joseph Kellum, Nicholas Kellum, Kelsey Kellum Ng, Randi Shannahan, and Danika Johnson and 11 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
George Parnell Kellum was born on October 30, 1931, in Live Oak Township, Drew County, Arkansas, to Clyde and Ellie (Harrison) Kellum. When his father fell ill, Kellum was forced to matriculate into adulthood as a child. He left school in the eighth grade to work the cornfields full time, prematurely shouldering the costs of love and the hard work it took to provide for his family.
But Papa wore well the tremendous mantel of guardian and carried it with him into the world. He enlisted in the army in April 1950 and served in the Korean War where he wagered his life for his country—and for us. He served without thinking of himself—he never thought of himself—and was distinguished for his selflessness. During his military career, Kellum earned many awards for his heroism and valor, including a Combat Infantry Badge, United Nations Service Medal, Purple Heart, Korean Service Medal, and five Bronze Service Stars. Papa never spoke of his time in the service, let alone his honors. Sacrifice was all he knew and its own reward. His honorable discharge on April 28, 1953, marked the conclusion of a decorated career and the beginning of a new chapter as a husband and father where he sustained his legacy of selfless devotion.
Kellum married Lucy on April 26, 1952. Pensive, gentle, earnest, steadfast, Papa was the calm to Granny’s storm. They began their 71 years of life together in Arkansas, working full-time jobs, raising children, and pursuing technical educations at night. Kellum earned a GED and attended Arkansas Tech in Russellville, Arkansas, on the GI Bill. In those early years, Mike and Lucy loved and lived in shifts, each striving to outgive the other for their families and communities, whether in Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, or Missouri. Raising four children with only “two dimes to rub together,” Kellum had to do whatever he could to provide for his wife and children. But he was ready.
A boy who had to give all he had for his family, Papa never allowed pride to corrupt his humble work, which remained focused on the end—whatever the means—of giving life to those he loved. Among his many ventures was the auto repair and body shop, K and W Garage. Both profitable and charitable, Papa used his business to serve his community in Eunice, New Mexico, working overtime and often without pay to keep the town running. It also provided jobs for his children as well as vehicles—at least until he sold them. He once left a note in a family car saying, “Clean her out! Got her sold!” But there was always another, he made sure.
A jack-of-all-trades, Papa cultivated a wide range of interests as a hunter, fisherman, golfer, gardener, gunsmith, welder, carpenter, mechanic, electrician, bartender, plumber. He was received as a Master of the Royal Secret of the 32nd Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, served as Master Mason, and volunteered in the Veterans Affairs Honor & Color Guard. An avid outdoorsman, Papa was happiest catching fish and hunting deer with his family or on the golf course, where he was notorious for shooting under his age. He was decisive, a man of action known for his ability to fix anything, including the family home, which he renovated to twice its original size with his bare hands. Papa faithfully followed Jesus in word and deed and was a member of Eunice First Baptist Church in Eunice, NM, and, later, attended Pomona Christian Church in Pomona, MO. He knew personally the value of living for others.
Papa dignified everyone he encountered, making them feel significant and accepted, no matter the “joker.” When confronted with unconventional opinions, even those he disagreed with, he was known to say, “that’s your business and exactly why I fought in Korea.” Papa learned his wisdom from his savior, Jesus, and discovered joy and purpose in a life of service. Like Jesus, Papa showed us how to live: by doing whatever it takes to protect and provide for others and to ensure that righteousness prevails.
A memorial service and celebration of life for both George Parnell Kellum and Mildred Lucille Kellum will be held at the Eunice City Cemetery in Eunice, New Mexico, on April 27, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. The public is invited to attend. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be sent to: Eunice American Legion, PO Box 127, Eunice, NM 88231. Arrangements under the direction of Robertson-Drago Funeral Home.