R.I.P. Tim Donnelly, funny fireman Chet Kelly on Emergency!

The prankster of Station 51 passed away at the age of 77.

Every firehouse has its comedian, a firefighter who lightens the mood. For Station 51, the Los Angeles County Fire Department house seen in the pioneering procedural Emergency! that class clown was Chester "Chet" Kelly. Played by Tim Donnelly, Chet brought levity to the rescue series, playing practical jokes and wisecracking with his colleagues. Particularly John Gage.

With his antics and mustache, Donnelly was a memorable supporting actor on Emergency! Jack Webb, creator-producer of the series, was particularly fond of the California native. One of Donnelly's earliest roles sticks in the memory of Sixties television fans. In the Dragnet episode "The Big High," a preachy plot about the perils of pot, Donnelly played Paul Shipley, a father who enjoys a toke, leading to the death of his young infant in the bathtub.

Donnelly would appear in four more episodes of the 1967 Dragnet reboot, and turned up in Webb's Adam-12 a couple of times, before finding a steady home in Station 51. His Chet Kelly appeared in 122 episodes of Emergency! — nearly as many as the principal stars.

The series meant a lot to those in emergency medical services — and even helped to propagate paramedic services across America. This is why news of Donnelly's death came not from Hollywood trade publications but rather from the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.

The LACFM wrote on Facebook

"We at the Fire Museum are heartbroken as we sure all of you will be as well regarding the following news. It is with deep sadness that we announce the sudden passing of our friend, Tim Donnelly, this weekend. Tim, as you know, played Chet Kelly on the show Emergency! among many other roles during his acting career. To all the Emergency! fans, we want you to know that he was very excited about coming to the Museum in January for the 50th Anniversary. Many of the Museum Board Members have great memories of Tim from our time on Project 51 and personal contact."

Following Emergency!, Donnelly found small guest roles on CHiPs and Vega$, but his television credits ended in 1984 with a spot on The A-Team.

His brother, Dennis Donnelly, was a longtime TV director, helming 18 episodes of Emergency! and teaming with Tim on some installments of Project UFO.

Donnelly passed away on September 19. He was 77.

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saswifteagle 33 months ago
Heaven got itself another star. RIP you little scamp!
hyppymom 33 months ago
RIP great prankster and equally great straight man. Sad to lose him. Long live the moustache
bs7132838 34 months ago
JustGeri 34 months ago
I have been dreading news coming of more actors passing from my fav 70s shows…we have lost several this year alone …Cloris Leachman, Gavin MacLeod, Ed Asner from MTM alone and so many others.
Emergency! was my Saturday night show growing up. I’d have my shower first and park in front of TV in family room. Randolph Mantooth as Johnny Gage was my guy. “Chet” was a great foil for Johnny when not on calls. Tim Donnelly had such a naturalness about him. He was the Everyman joker who could be serious when needed. A top episode to watch featuring Chet actually caring for Johnny is when Gage is bit by a rattler after Roy takes victim in ambulance. The guys put Johnny on back of Engine 51 and Chet is the one to do what Johnny tells him, IV, etc as Mike Stoker drives truck to Rampart. Captain Stanley stays on top with Chet and Gage I think Marco drives the Squad back. In the hospital Roy or was it Dixie who notes Chet is worried.
I believe Emergency! airs Saturday on COZI …will look and see if a In Memoriam shows between commercials. All last year when soaps were interrupted by news conferences, I’d watch Emergency! All these shows are my comfort TV.
God Speed Mr. Donnelly and thanks for the memories, I imagine a lot of Firefighters who grew up watching you were there to welcome you as a brother.
MaryHlad 34 months ago
Rest in Heaven, Chet Kelly, with your brothers and sisters above.
BorisK 34 months ago
Let's not forget Tim's multiple Dragnet roles in some of their best shows -- The Big High where he and his Yuppie wife smoke grass and forget their child is in the bathtub (tragic ending) and Burglary where Tim fabulously played The Crimson Crusader, who wears a superhero outfit made from his mother's clothes and steals comic book images from movie theaters and studios. Jack Webb had Tim put on a bunch of weight and primed him for the role -- Tim was excellent. I can never see Tim Donnelly in any other role without thinking of The Crimson Crusader on Dragnet -- I hope that's a compliment to a memorable acting role. RIP Tim -- 77 is far too young.
HP11 BorisK 34 months ago
R.I.P. Chester B. Kelly
UTZAAKE 34 months ago
When I was a little kid, always got Tim Donnelly mixed up with Charles Dierkop (Royster from Police Woman). Both were on NBC TV series and had big mustaches in the 1970s.
Gabe1983 34 months ago
Any chance you could do a special airing of a Chet-centered "EMERGENCY!" episode as a tribute? Season 3, Episode 16: "Messin' Around" (1/12/1974), featuring his exploits as "The Phantom" would be perfect!
34 months ago
That's sad. I used to love watching him on Emergency. I also.loved seeing him on the Dragnet episode too. May hecrest in Peace😔😭
frenchman71 34 months ago
Deepest condolences. What a character he played on "Emergency!". Remember the basketball tourney, his station played another station, every time he took a shot he closed his eyes and sunk a bucket. My favorite character was a "Dragnet" episode where he played a comic book character, "The Crimson Crusader", commiting burglaries and such. Friday caught him in the end and he starts sobbing like a little kid. Classic!!
BorisK frenchman71 34 months ago
Ditto on The Crimson Crusader -- Tim really pulled that one off like no one else could.
TheSentinel frenchman71 33 months ago
Loved the basketball episode of Emergency with Chet as the team MVP, also enjoyed the Dixieland-style music playing in the background during the game to add levity.

RIP Tim Donnelly, one of the greats who made my Saturdays back in the '70s.
Grizz 34 months ago
My condolences to the Donnelly family RIP you made me crack up I grew up watching Emergency I always waited for your antic's. 😂
AgingDisgracefully 34 months ago
I like him best as one of Jack Webb's Mighty Art Players in Dragnet '67.
JeffSchafer 34 months ago
I always hated Chet Kelly's stupid 'Practical Jokes' he played on John Gage (Randolph Mantooth). So immature!
But, he was part of the main cast of Emergency!, one of the best shows of the 1970s.

This post summed it up best:
MelissaWatsonPierce 34 months ago
This is the only station our tv is turned to! We certainly respect the In Memory segments you show when a respected actor or actress goes on to Heaven…. however
on 9/11 of this year 2021 I did not see one Memorial Clip dedicated to the Memory of those who died,rescued or survived this horrific Terrorist Attack on our country, The United States of America, from MeTV… what happened?? I was disappointed but mostly saddened 😢😢😢😢
MelissaWatsonPierce 34 months ago
His character on Emergency was genius…
In a work environment where these brave firemen and paramedics saw a lot of heartbreak and sadness and stress, his character added the laughter that is still good for the soul❤️❤️❤️❤️
MelissaWatsonPierce 34 months ago
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jacko3 34 months ago
.. LORD Bless the Soul of - Tim Donnelly* Amen ~ Alleluia!
KLHall1960 34 months ago
METV should do a tribute to Mr Donnelly
JERRY6 34 months ago
RIP Mr DONNELLY They should bring Emergency back to Me tv
KLHall1960 JERRY6 34 months ago
BorisK JERRY6 34 months ago
We get it on COZI TV in San Diego!
hyppymom JERRY6 33 months ago
Moverfan BorisK 33 months ago
And here in the Detroit area.
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