Iowa war veterans who reconnected after 70 years die just 12 days apart

Two Korean War veterans reunited after seven decades apart -- and died within days of each other at the same assisted living facility.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 5:36 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - Two war veterans reconnected after decades apart but everything changed in the last couple of weeks.

Reunions are often unpredictable. Many wonder, “will there still be a connection?”

Last September, two Korean War veterans from Iowa who joined the Army together finally reconnected at a Council Bluffs assisted living center.

It had been 70 years since they had seen each other.

Rolland Thomas already had a room here, and George Kelley knew that.

“You don’t look like the last time I saw you,” Rolland said to George when they met up.

They picked up where they left off decades ago.

“That first day they met when you were there for the interview, I didn’t think they’d ever stop talking,” said Imogene Kelley, George’s wife.

“What a coincidence this would ever happen,” said Laurie Bell, Rolland’s daughter.

Bell was there with her husband and son.

“Grandpa really treasured those visits with George. That’s all he talked about, reminiscing with someone who was there,” said Cole Bell, Rolland Thomas’ grandson.

After several months of catching up, daily, George Kelley’s health began to deteriorate rapidly.

The 90-year-old had to move where he could get more specialized care.

“That was devastating to him. They were going to be separated again,” Cole said.

Rolland Thomas, who’s 89 and still wishes he was back on the farm, had a special request for his grandson.

“He says, ‘Cole, George is going downhill pretty quick. You’re going to take me to his funeral? you’re going to be my ride?’ He was adamant he was going to be there when George passed away,” Cole added.

That never happened.

On Feb. 1, it was Rolland Thomas who died.

“We were all shocked by that,” said Susan Sorenson, George Kelley’s daughter.

Services were held at Fouts Funeral Home in the small town of Woodbine, Iowa.

Just 12 days later George Kelley died. His service was in the same place.

“Since he insisted someone take him to George’s funeral, we felt it was important to be there for Imy yesterday,” said Ron Bell, Rolland Thomas’ son-in-law.

Two men who came of age together, going out together, after 70 years apart.