Thomas L. Kielty started a Holy Saturday tradition at his parish, and this weekend the annual event became his eulogy, following his unexpected death.

Kielty introduced to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church the Polish custom of blessing the food that will be used to make Easter meals.

On Saturday, as parishioners gathered to have their food blessed, with Kielty’s basket also there, they remembered the man who had devoted so much to the church.

His daughter, Sue Clark of Omaha, said her father suffered an apparent heart attack early Saturday, a few hours before the service.

On Easter Sunday, Kielty’s family still celebrated at his home, where Kielty had tables set for 40. He was the father of five, grandfather of 15 and great-grandfather of nine.

He worked for decades at the Omaha World-Herald in advertising, circulation and marketing, rising to director of circulation and president of a subsidiary, World Enterprises.

But it was his family that he prioritized, Clark said.

On Wednesday, Kielty had celebrated his 80th birthday surrounded by family members.

“Family means everything to me,” he told them and said his birthday wish was granted because they were all there with him, Clark said.

Kielty’s death comes just months after the death of his wife of 60 years, Patricia Kielty. The two were high school sweethearts.

An Omaha native, Kielty served in the U.S. Army in France. Soon after returning to Omaha, he started working at The World-Herald. Kielty took night classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for seven years, graduating with a business degree in 1973.

He retired from The World-Herald in 1998. He and his wife enjoyed traveling, playing golf and going on fly-fishing trips.

Kielty also loved hunting, served on the board of Crime Stoppers and for years was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Clark said. He had remained close with many of his former co-workers at The World-Herald, she said.

In addition to Clark, Kielty is survived by his other children, Kim Rasco of Lincoln, Debra Kielty, Todd Kielty and Thomas A. Kielty; brother Tim Kielty; and sister Barb Donovan, all of Omaha.

Services were pending.

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