Derek Leonard Kelley, named after his Grandad, Leonard Johnson Wentworth, was born June 14th, 1969, The Summer of Love, Woodstock and the year Nell Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. Derek was born in Lander, Wyoming to Ronda Lynne (Roni) Wentworth Kelley and Michael John Kelley. Derek went to grade school in Westminster, Colorado, Billings, Montana and Jeffrey City, Wyoming.
Derek was in 4-H, team roped with the Sweetwater Roping Club, competed in gymkhana, winning the buckle for Champion High Point in his age division and showed his horse “Yeller” in Western Equitation, always placing 1st or 2nd. At age 11, he attended Rodeo Camp entering in bareback bronc and bulls, with only 1 trip to the E.R.
The family moved to Alaska in 1981. Derek attended Wasilla Middle School and Palmer Jr. High, attending high school at Palmer High, Covenant High barding school in Unalakleet and Alaska State boarding school in Sitka.
Derek had a lifelong love affair with all outdoors sports and activities, most likely stemming from his Viking blood. At 14 he was caretaker and assistant guide in Katalla. At 15 he built his own dog sled, under the tutelage of John Ace, an Iditarod musher, and Dad of his best friend Matt, and, took his 7-dog team to Kobuk, AK for the winter to trap marten. Derek learned the art of trapping from Eino Kuoppala in Sutton.
He became an Assistant Guide under well known outfitter and guide John E. Luster of Chickaloon, AK, who was a friend of Derek's grandparents when John E. lived near Thermopolis, WY. Derek was a 4th generation outfitter and guide. At the age of 16, Derek shot one of the biggest brown bears ever taken in Alaska and the standing mount is on display at a lodge near Fairbanks, Alaska. Unfortunately, his name does not appear on the description plate as he was guiding another hunter who fired the first shot and wounded the bear, the bear then laid in wait for them where Derek killed him. In 1989 Derek guided for Gracious House on the Richardson Highway, his fiance', Shannon Bennett, also from Sutton went with him working as a campjack. Derek and Shannon left Alaska the spring of 1989 for Colorado Springs, CO where he attended college, attaining an AA degree. Derek and Shannon married in 1990 and were married for 26 years, divorcing after their son, Avery J. Kelley, (named for his Great Great Grandad, Bert Avery, Meeteetse, WY, a well-known outfitter and guide), passed away in 2016.
Derek went to truck driving school and drove coast-to-coast for Schneider Trucking, then moved to Jeffrey City, Wyoming, buying the place he was raised in from his parents. Derek was a pumper in the oilfields from 1999-2008. He continued to hunt and pack while in Wyoming, running a trapline in 1998 and 1999 as well as raising horses. His favorite winter pass time was spot lighting jack rabbits and coyote hunting with his friends. He packed for Half Moon Outfitters in the Bridger Teton National Forest, 2005-2007, using his own string of horses, who he trained himself.
Derek was a hand with a horse, had he wanted, he would have been a successful horse trainer. He trained several horses for other people in Wyoming as well as his own in WY and CO. The family moved to a ranch in Colorado following his wife's devastating gas explosion accident in the Gas Hills, which burned almost 90% of her body. He raised some good horses, hunted in Africa, sky-dived, took flying lessons, and, did more than a lot of men dream of.
In 2018 Derek moved to Kechikan, AK, where he had a remote cabin on the Unuk River, and continued to hunt and fish. Derek loved going to his cabin with his fiancé, Jennifer Brown. Derek drowned on August 14th, in the waters of Misty Fjords.
Derek is survived by mother, Ronda Lynne (Roni) Kelley, Pie Town, NM; sister, Darylene Kelley, Lodgepole NE; brothers, Jon Kizer Gifford, IL; and, James Kizer of Indianapolis, IN; former wife, Shannon Bennett, Byers, CO; fiancé, Jennifer Brown, Ketchikan, AK; numerous cousins in WY, ID and MN; lifelong friends, Randie Evans, Casper, WY; Chris McDonald, Lander, WY, who will scatter some of Derek's ashes at their Scab Creek spike camp in the Bridger Teton Wilderness, a hike of more than 20 miles; Dustin (Dusty) McLaughlin, Riverton, WY and Freddie Moore, Dutchess County, NY.
Derek also had many close friends in and near Ketchikan, AK.
Derek was preceded in death by 1st cousin, Charles (Butch) Argento, Grandparents, Leonard J. and Mildred (Middie) Avery Wentworth; Dad, Michael J. Kelley; Grandparents Bearl and Hazel Randall Kelley; Aunt, Verna Wentworth Argento; Uncle, Darel Wentworth; and, his only child, son, Avery J. Kelley.