Julia Kelly was a special treat to everyone she met, so it is quite fitting that she operated a snack shop for many years.
For more than 37 years, she ran the concession stand at Gary City Hall, "under six mayors," said her niece, Patti Freeland.
Kelly later moved her business to the Veterans' Administration Clinic in Crown Point.
Kelly, 87, of Merrillville and formerly of Gary's Tolleston area, died Dec. 13.
"She enjoyed meeting with the people who came to her snack shop and enjoyed serving them coffee and talking with them," Freeland said.
Kelly worked even though she was legally blind with the assistance of the Randolph Shepherd Vending Program.
"Everybody loved her," Freeland said, noting that 50 longtime friends praised Kelly after Freeland posted the obituary on Facebook.
Freeland recalled how her aunt stepped in when Freeland's mother died in 1976. She already lived with the family and was very supportive for the next 30 years.
The two shared a room and Freeland remembered how they played canasta, Chinese checkers and watched old movies and classic TV shows.
Freeland recalled how her aunt comforted her when she lost her baby boy.
On the first Christmas without him, Kelly gave Freeland an ornament of a little angel, and told her it was Philip.
"I hang that ornament at the top/front of my tree still today, 23 years later, and I think of both of them each time."
Kelly was also close to her "church family" at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church of Merrillville.
"She was our sister, she was our friend, she was our mother and grandmother," her niece said. "And her kind heart and unconditional love will guide us for the rest of our lives."