Photos by Libby Rogers
If you ever have the opportunity to greet Mike Kelly and ask how he is doing, it is very likely that his answer will be, “I’m better than I deserve.” Originally from Hitchcock, Texas, in Galveston County, Mike, better known as “Kat,” came to Huntsville in 1973 to attend Sam Houston State University. He received his degree in Physical Education/Kinesiology in 1978. At the time, he was working part-time at Tinsley’s Chicken in Huntsville, and he became part-owner of Tinsley’s until 1985, when the franchise was bought out by Church’s Chicken. Soon after, Mike went to work with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a Rec Consultant. He really enjoyed this, because they developed teams and played other Units. Eventually, that position was terminated, and although he was offered the opportunity to stay on with TDCJ as a correctional officer, he decided to venture out in other areas. By this time, he had already met James Carter, who owned several franchises, including Church’s and Texas Burger, in various locations, including Conroe, Humble, Madisonville, Tomball, and Rusk. Carter had been having difficulties with the Church’s in the Trinity area, so he gave Mike the opportunity to buy in at this location.
More recently, and after more than 40+ years of dedicating his life to cooking chicken, Mike decided to take a ‘Leap of Faith,’ and is now the independent owner of Kat’s Chicken located in Trinity, Texas.
Although Mike has dedicated a big part of his life to cooking chicken, he has also found time to devote to his family. Gayle, his beautiful wife of 30 years, is now a retired teacher from Huntsville Independent School District. They were blessed with three wonderful daughters. Aulisa (the oldest) and Michaela both are nurses and live in the Humble and Cypress areas. Lashanda is living in Virginia, and served in the Air Force. She recently decided to return to school. His family is very excited about his new endeavor and fully support him.
Mike has also been a sports official for 45 years in various sports, including football, basketball, softball, and volleyball. According to Mike, when he started officiating, he found it was a good way to supplement his income. Then, he continued doing it simply because he enjoyed it. He was also a Scoutmaster for 20 years and found the experience to be very rewarding because he was able to help shape young lives and lead boys in the right direction so that, in the future, they could become good role models. Additionally, Mike has been very involved in prison ministry. “It has truly been a blessing. Sometimes, God puts us in a place where we need to be, just to get our attention,” Mike said.
According to Mike, his journey and accomplishments have not been without the guidance and influence of several important people in his life. Without a doubt, his father Jeff Kelly was a big influence, as well as Rev. Ernest Grover, who ordained him as a deacon. Others include Percy Howard and Morris Johnson, both of whom were community leaders and helped him become a deacon and were instrumental in teaching him the importance of serving and giving back to the community. He would also be remiss not to mention others such as Joe Clements, David Tinsley, and James Carter, who were also very important role models throughout his life.