Caroline Kelley

Obituary of Caroline Kelley

Caroline Kelley, better known as Big Mama, passed away peacefully at home in the presence of family on January 13, 2024, at the age of 92. She was born on February 5, 1931, to Earley and Cealie Tatum in Tyronza, Arkansas, the youngest of six children. She grew up in Mason, Tennessee, where she attended Morning Grove Baptist Church in Cardova, Tennessee.

Caroline moved to Salinas, California, in 1950. She was an active member of Emmanuel Church of God in Christ under the leadership of Elder Welton McGee. Inspired by her commitment, she embarked on a heartfelt mission to support the church and decided to sell candy to help raise funds for the church, earning her the affectionate title of “candy lady.” Her entrepreneurial spirit and dedication became a symbol of her unwavering support for the church community. As she got older and could not travel as far, she joined Royal Family Church of God in Christ. She was welcomed with open arms and love by Pastor and First Lady Franklin and she attended Royal Family until her final days.

As the matriarch of the family, she played an instrumental role in bringing together her 6 children, 14 grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, along with a host of nieces and nephews. Family was at the heart of Caroline’s world, and she found immense joy in spending time with her loved ones, and reminding them that she loved each of them in their own individual way. This is evidenced by the large home that she built so that she would have enough space to house numerous family members and host all the family gatherings.

Known for her zest for life, Caroline had a passion for travel and exploring new places. Bingo nights brought her laughter and excitement, and she cherished the simple pleasures of good food and restful sleep. Whether people watching or taking leisurely walks with her best friend, she reveled in the warmth of companionship.

As we bid farewell to Caroline, let us celebrate her legacy – a woman of faith, resilience, humor, and unconditional love. Her selfless dedication to her family will forever be remembered. Caroline had a big and generous heart and she will be remembered by many for her kindness, compassion, humor, courage, and resilience. She will be missed by all those whose lives she touched.

Caroline was a loving mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great grandmother, and friend. Caroline is survived by her five children (and their spouses): Verna Mae Hacker, Olive Faye Burks, Lester Kelley (Cindy Kelly), Cealie Williamson, Emily Towner (Joseph Towner). Predeceased by her siblings Hannah Tate, Earl Tatum, Willie Tatum, Ermen Tatum, Jim Tatum, Jeff Tatum, and Louis Tatum, and her son Milton Jones.

Visitation will be held, Thursday, 1/25/2024 from 12 noon - 5PM at the Healey Mortuary 405 N. Sanborn Rd., Salinas

Funeral Services will be held Friday, 1/26/2024 at 12 Noon at the Northminster Presbyterian Church, 315 E. Alvin Dr., Salinas

Burial will follow at the Garden of Memories Cemetery,850 Abbott St., Salinas.


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A Memorial Tree was planted for Caroline
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Healey Mortuary and Crematory