|May 16, 2013
Retired Army Lt. Colonel Patricia Kelly back home working at THHS
By B.L. Azure
Retired U.S. Army nurse practitioner Patricia Kelly recently joined the medical provider staff at the Polson THHS Clinic. Kelly retired from the Army in January 2012 and now with husband Isaac is building a home on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Ronan. (B.L. Azure photo)
POLSON — Confidence and planning have been the cornerstones of Patricia Camel Kelly’s life and career. As a young child growing up in the Ronan area, the daughter of Henry and Alice Nenemay Camel made the decision to become a nurse. She overcame a few public and personal hurdles — that momentarily detracted from the goal — to reach her destination of her life’s commitment to serve in the health care field.
After serving with distinction in the health care field in the public health arena, Indian Health Service and the U.S. Army, Kelly retired a year and a half ago and has made her way back home to the Flathead Indian Reservation to enjoy her youthful golden years.
Kelly said she didn’t haphazardly stumble into her career and retirement. “The one thing that has been a constant in my career has been the planning,” she said. “From the get-go I always knew that I wanted to be a nurse. I was six or seven years old when I made the actual decision to become a nurse. While working I began planning for my retirement years and what I would do to be able to enjoy retirement without too many financial worries.”
But all the money in the world is not worth much if a person is not able to enjoy it in good health. And staying physically and emotionally fit has been the other cornerstones in Kelly’s life and that will remain so.
A few months back, in January, Kelly’s golden years included the addition of a job with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Tribal Health and Human Services as a nurse practitioner.
“I want to remain active in retirement,” Kelly said. “This position with Tribal Health is a nice combination that allows for activity at work with plenty of time off. The salary at Tribal Health helps me to be able to do some of the things I want to do in retirement. I love this aspect of my life.”
Nurse Practitioner Kelly works in the Polson THHS Clinic two days a week — Tuesday and Wednesday — as an acute care nurse.
“I deal a lot with walk-ins,” Kelly said. “That allows Dr. (LeeAnna) Muzquiz to work more with her long-term and chronic care patients.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kelly, 63, retired from the U.S. Army on her birthday, Jan. 1, 2012 after 25 years of service to America, its citizens as well as the citizens of the countries she served in throughout her career. The military services have a mandatory retirement age of 62 for service members.
“Time has flown by. The time didn’t drag because I was busy with the opportunities presented to me in the Army, of being able to travel and live in other countries throughout the world and meeting people of other nationalities and cultures,” Kelly said in a previous interview shortly after her retirement from the Army. It was her father Henry’s military service in the U.S. Navy that inspired Patricia to serve in the Army. “I didn’t consider any other branches. I can’t believe it has been 25 years since I joined. I had a great career that I loved but it was time to leave and pursue other things.”
Among the other things was moving back to Montana and the Flathead Indian Reservation where she and husband Isaac “Sonny” Kelly are building a home in the Ronan area.
“I am happy to be back home with my family and happy that I am in good health so I can enjoy this time of my life,” Kelly said. “This life journey for me keeps going on. I will remain vital, active and spiritually centered and keep living my life like there is no tomorrow.”
Kelly received her registered nursing degree from Montana State University. In her nursing career she has worked for Public Health, Indian Health Service on the Fort Belknap and Flathead Indian reservations, Tribal Health in its infancy and the U.S. Army.
While in the Army, Kelly served oversees tours in Germany, Korea and Iraq as well as numerous stateside assignments.
Lt. Col. Kelly’s awards and decorations include: the Meritorious Service Medal, three times; the Army Commendation Medal, six times, and the Army Achievement Medal, three times.
At the time of her retirement, Lt. Col. Kelly served as Family Nurse Practitioner in the Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas.
Prior to coming back to Montana she worked as a nurse practitioner for a private medical provider.
Welcome Home, Patricia and Isaac.