Thomas Kelaher was the senior and founding partner of our firm. He passed away in 2021 after a distinguished 70-year career of public service. His accolades and accomplishments were many, serving as a U.S. Marine, Ocean County Prosecutor and Mayor of Toms River.

He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1951. During a period of extended active duty, Kelaher served with the 5th Marine Regiment. He spent a total of 28 years of active and reserve-duty, retiring in 1979 as a lieutenant colonel. He was named executive officer of the Marine Barracks at Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Mr. Kelaher received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from St. Peter’s College and his Juris Doctor Degree from Seton Hall University. He served the Ocean County community with honor, earning a reputation for fair policy and interpretation of the law. His key areas of legal focus were estate planning, personal income tax planning, retirement programs and probate law and business law.

Throughout his professional career, Mr. Kelaher was admitted to practice before the New Jersey Supreme Court, the United States Court of Military Appeals, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court and later became a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Civil Trial Attorney.

In 1969, NJ Governor Richard Hughes appointed Mr. Kelaher deputy attorney general. He was Ocean County assistant prosecutor in from 1969-1974. He served as Ocean County Prosecutor from 2002-2007. He also served as the Ocean County Bar Association President and as Ethics Committee Chairman.

In 2008, Mr. Kelaher was elected mayor of Toms River and served two terms for 12 years, where he helped steer the town’s residents through the crisis of Superstorm Sandy and its devastating aftermath: the rebuilding of 10,000 damaged homes.

Mr. Kelaher was heavily involved in hospital and health care matters, serving as a member of the Community Medical Center Board of Trustees for 25 years including 15 years as Chairman of the board. As chairman, Mr. Kelaher oversaw the consolidation of Community Medical Center and Paul Kimball Medical Center and then with the St. Barnabas Health Care System, which consisted of ten hospitals, 4,000 beds and a complex array of programs and services.

From 1988 to 1998, the mayor also served as Chairman of the Board for Clara Maass Medical Center, member of the Board of Trustees of Kimball Medical Center and St. Barnabas Behavior Health Center. In 1998, Kelaher was named Hospital Trustee of the Year by the New Jersey Hospital Association and appointed in 1999 to the Board of Trustees of the New Jersey Hospital Association where he served as a member of the Executive Committee.

Mr. Kelahar amassed numerous awards during his distinguished career. Pope John Paul II designated him a Knight in the Order of St. Gregory of Great in 1997, and in September 2002, he was installed as a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a main altar ceremony presided over by Cardinal John Egan.

In 1989, he was recognized as the Ocean County Police Chiefs Association Man of the Year, B’nai B’rith Man of the Year and Toms River Rotary Club Man of the Year. He was also named the 1987 Toms River-Ocean County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and honored as the 1982 Irishman of the Year by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore.

He later was recognized with the 1993 Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He was awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award for 50 years of dedicated service to community from the 200 Club of Ocean County.

The people of Toms River and Ocean County were blessed to have such a public servant for more than half a century and we at KVDM were honored to have him as a partner. He continued to practice law until the day he passed.

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