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Bob Lind, Published October 27 2012

Lind: Love doesn’t fade, even after death

Four large letters are on display in their living room. They are L-O-V-E.

And that’s the theme of this story.

Volleyball and Debbie

Kevin Kelly, a native of Hibbing, Minn., had moved with his parents to Moorhead and graduated from Moorhead High School. Because he loved fixing cars, he earned a degree in auto mechanics from Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Moorhead.

Then one night he joined a singles group playing volleyball at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Fargo. There he met Deborah “Debbie” Rezac, of Fargo. And Kevin had himself a new love.

Helping people

Kevin and Debbie were married in 1982 and bought a house in Fargo.

Kevin was busy as an auto mechanic. He was a handy guy around the house, too, because he could fix things and do remodeling. Debbie would envision how something should look, and Kevin would figure out how to do it. “We made a good team,” Debbie says.

But then, she says, “His interest changed from making a car run well to helping people run well.”

He enrolled at North Dakota State University and earned degrees in dietetics and sports medicine. He became a licensed registered dietitian and opened a private practice called Forever Healthy.

His desire to help others kept him branching out. He became a tri-state restaurant inspector, a consulting dietitian for Fraser Ltd., an educator for Sister Rosalind’s School of Massage and for MSCTC; and a dietitian

for the NDSU Wellness Center.

On top of all this, he went back to NDSU, this time to work on a master’s degree, doing it, Debbie says, “with the same enthusiasm he applied to everything he did.”

But in 2008 his work on his master’s thesis abruptly went on hold when he was diagnosed with cancer of his bile ducts.

Writing the thesis

It became a time of liver stents, trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., chemotherapy in Fargo and a new type of radiation treatment at Mayo.

Through it all, Kevin believed he’d get better, and he did. He beat cancer.

With only one semester to go and his thesis nearly finished, he re-enrolled at NDSU in 2009. But all those treatments had put stress on his kidneys and liver, and a month later he was back in the hospital and on dialysis.

Kevin finished his paper. But on Jan. 13, 2010, before he finished his last semester, he died. He was 52.

His master’s

Last spring, NDSU held its annual graduation ceremonies. For Debbie, they brought back memories of the graduation ceremonies of 2010.

That was when NDSU, despite Kevin’s not having been able to finish his last semester, gave him his master’s degree posthumously.

“It was an emotional, bittersweet time,” Debbie says.

WDAY-TV did a piece on Kevin and Debbie that day, showing Debbie accepting the diploma, but with difficulty. “I tried hard to hold it together, but I didn’t quite make it.”

27 years of joy

Debbie looks back on the 27 years she and Kevin were married with a mix of joy and longing.

He was, she says, “an amazing guy” who did his share in making their life together so special.

She continues to work at the Sunmart store in north Fargo, as she has for 27 years. And she continues to live in the house she and Kevin bought shortly after their marriage.

It’s the house with the letters L-O-V-E prominently displayed.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com