David Lee Kelly

David Lee Kelly

July 19, 1959 – September 18, 2023

David (Dave) Lee Kelly was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on July 19, 1959, to Galen Kelly and Sharon Moya.  He was the sibling to older brother, Mark Kelly and younger sister, Nancy MacDonald.

Dave graduated in 1977 from Westside High School.  He then went to Iowa State University to study Biology.  Dave transferred to University of Nebraska Omaha, where he received his Bachelor of Science in 1982, and his Master of Arts in 1985.

Dave had a longstanding career with the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer.  He joined in 1986 as a Research Technician, while simultaneously pursuing higher education.  He obtained his PhD from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 1994, and went on to dedicating the remainder of his career to cancer research, ultimately becoming Assistant Professor in 2015.  He led the Molecular Biology Facility/High Throughput Screening Core Facility for 19 years where he showcased his extensive background in Molecular and Cell Biology and DNA synthesis and sequencing.  Additionally, he served as Chair to the Scientific Review Committee, overseeing the clinical trials program. Dave was incredibly passionate about his work and showed true dedication to continuing his research while battling his own cancer diagnosis in 2022.

Dave married the love of his life, Taina, on January 20, 1989.  He was a loving father to two daughters, Jaime Burley and Taylor Kelly.

Dave will especially be remembered as a devoted family man who cherished quality time with family.  As a father, he was actively involved and never missed any of their school events  sports activities, even if this meant sitting in auditoriums watching the same dance routine at recitals three nights in a row.  While “husband” and “dad” were his favorite titles, he was overjoyed when he got to add “Papa” to that list.  He soaked up every opportunity to take a trip with his wife to visit his grandchildren and be a loud supporter.  His visits would bring out his own inner child and the house would be filled with “dad jokes” and teasing.

He truly valued celebrating holidays and events that bring families together.  Family and friends often joke that you knew when Dave had arrived at a social event as the room would fill with his boisterous and contagious laughter.

Dave was an avid Husker football fan.  If you couldn’t find him watching it on the big screen in the basement, you would instead hear him yelling in the garage where he sat listening to the radio during especially nerve-wracking games.  Although it pained his Husker pride that his daughters chose to attend Kansas State University, his pride for his kids overruled and you would find him sporting a purple polo when visiting for game days.

Dave was known by family and friends to have a “green thumb” and proudly created a beautiful backyard oasis with his wife every summer.  Each year he promised to scale back, however each summer the decks and patios would fill with more overflowing pots of flowers.

Dave will be forever loved and fondly remembered for many things.  He was a hard-working, dedicated, humble man with a great sense of humor and a passion for people.  He touched so many lives and will be sorely missed.

He was preceded in death by father, Galen Kelly; stepfather, Joseph Moya.  He is survived by wife, Taina; daughters, Jaime (Brian) Burley, Taylor Kelly; mother, Sharon Moya; brother, Mark (Deb) Kelly; sister, Nancy (Bob) MacDonald; grandchildren, William Burley, Eleanor Burley, Luke Burley; and many nieces and nephews.

Celebration of Life: Sunday, October 1, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at the West Center Chapel, 7805 W. Center Rd. To view a live broadcast of the Service, please go to www.heafeyheafey.com and click the “Live Cast” button at the top of the home page. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer. University of Nebraska Medical Center, Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer, 986805 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, 68198-6805.



  • Linda Rodine Posted September 19, 2023 7:20 am

    Taina, I am so sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you and your family.

  • Pei Xian Chen Posted September 19, 2023 8:09 am

    I am so saddened to hear about the passing of Dr. Kelly. He is such a kind and optimistic person, I’m grateful I got the chance to work in his lab. May those special memories help us through this difficult time. Please accept my deepest condolences.

  • Denise Empfield Posted September 19, 2023 9:15 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. Sending prayers to you and your family.

  • Mark Berner Posted September 20, 2023 8:55 am

    Very sorry to hear about Dave’s passing. Although we hadn’t stayed in contact in recent years, I have countless childhood memories of Dave growing up. We lived just blocks from each other and attended elementary, junior high, and high school together. We were proud ‘Gaters! I will never forget Dave’s friendly nature and ridiculous, infectious laugh. Best wishes to Dave’s family during this difficult time.

  • Travis Anderson Posted September 24, 2023 8:30 pm

    Taina, I am very sorry for you and your families loss. Prayers for you and your family during this time of need.

  • Carol Russell Posted September 24, 2023 9:29 pm

    I have been a community representative on the SRC at UNMC for many years and thoroughly enjoyed David’s leadership and genuine interest in the members of the committee. He took his job seriously and was very knowledgeable

  • Lisa Foland Posted September 25, 2023 1:55 am

    I was so saddened hearing of David’s passing. Although I didn’t get to visit the family often, David always made me feel welcome. Taina, I will hold you and the rest of the family in my heart. Please know I wish I could be there with you all to comfort all of you and listen to more stories. He will be missed by everyone he touched.

  • Paula Turpen Posted September 26, 2023 3:12 pm

    Dave and I were colleagues at UNMC. I enjoyed working with him. Dave was always will to work together to resolve the issue of the day. My sincere condolences to his family and all who know him. May Dave’s memory be a blessing.,

  • LEANN Vinckier Posted September 27, 2023 3:55 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. LeAnn

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