NAPLES ISLAND, Calif. — John H. Kelleher Sr., a longtime leader in the drycleaning and laundry industry, died Dec. 27 at the age of 83.
Kelleher was the former president and owner of Kelleher Equipment Supply — now Kelleher/Casares Equipment LLC — having founded the company in the 1970s. He got his start in the industry repairing laundromat washers for Cosmopolitan Equipment in Flatbush, New York, and later went on to work at the pressing company Forse, now known as Forenta. There, he worked as a repairman and installer, and found his way into sales on the West Coast for the company. Kelleher eventually grew his territory to include nearly the entire United States and Canada.
When an economic downturn took place at the start of the 1970s, Kelleher struck out on his own, founding Kelleher Equipment Supply in California. In this capacity, Kelleher was first to import a drycleaning machine from Italy to the United States. While this was controversial at the time, machines originating in Italy are now the most widely used in the U.S., says daughter Kelly Kelleher Casares.
“My dad was an innovator and looked for and implemented solutions for a variety of industry issues throughout the years,” she says. “This stemmed from changes in equipment design, the willingness to learn to adapt to cleaning fluids imposed upon dry cleaners by regulatory agencies, and uses of technologies outside of the box.”
Kelleher was an avid supporter of the drycleaning industry, participating in trade organizations and trade shows throughout his career. “He also left many dry cleaners with all of the mechanical tips he gave throughout the years,” adds Kelleher Casares.
Kelleher is survived by his wife, Diane; four children, Deborah Gesualdo, Kelly Kelleher Casares, Kim White and John H. Kelleher Jr.; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
Funeral services are scheduled for noon Saturday, Jan. 22, at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church, 16410 Springdale St., Huntington Beach, California.
Memorial and tribute gifts may be sent to St. John Bosco High School (https://www.bosco.org/your-future/build-his-future/tribute-gifts) to help with tuition needs.
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