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XII Travelers

Bill* & Ann Kieley, CYPRESS


Water centers the life trajectory of El Paso native William “Bill” Kiely, a life he says has been “pretty exciting and sometimes bizarre,“ from a childhood playing in irrigation well water on his parents’ Vinton farm, to earning his engineering degree from the University on the Rio Grande (Now UTEP), to soldiering in Vietnam’s rice paddies. He was a pioneer in deep water submersibles and off-shore terminals for oil supertankers.


Tom Lea’s art also flows through Bill’s life. As a youngster, Bill would hang out near Lea’s works in the El Paso Federal Courthouse, El Paso National Bank, and the El Paso Library while his mother did her downtown shopping. “I knew even then there was something special about them.“ Later, just returned from Vietnam, he, “a total stranger,” Knocked on Tom and Sarah’s door. “ I asked a hero from my youth if he would have a print I could purchase to take with me to my new life in DC.” Lea gave him a small signed print of Ranger Escort West of the Pecos. History. Says Bill, “While Tom and Sarah did not remember that brash young soldier at their door 30 years previous, over the next few years, we developed a truly wonderful and strong friendship.” Adds Ann, “When Tom saw so many of his works on our walls, he teared up, said it was like seeing old friends.”

The Kielys helped purchase Tom’s World War II sketchbook for the El Paso Museum of Art's permanent collection, and Bill serves on the Tom Lea Institute board. He is working on exhibiting Lea’s WWII paintings for LIFE magazine at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.


Both Bill and Ann say they are delighted to see the renewed interest in Tom and his works, thanks to the efforts of the Tom Lea Institute and its many supporters. They divide their time between grandchildren in Houston and their “beloved Hill Country.”

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