BILLINGS - Kelly Fulton, a Bozeman High School teacher, passed away after he was hit by a truck while riding his bike to work last week. Kelly is survived by his wife Elizabeth and their two sons, ages five and two.
Fulton has close ties to Billings - he grew up in the Magic City and attended Billings Senior High School. He was a cross country runner, participated in the band and was also an artist. He went to college and had a short career in architecture, and then made the transition to teaching where he inspired and motivated students at Bozeman High School.
Friends remembered Fulton as they try to come to grips with the loss.
Students remembered Mr. Fulton, who taught art and math and coached runners, and others who knew him say he always wanted to help.
"He really wanted to help any kid who was interested in learning," said Carissa Klarich, a childhood friend of Fulton. "And he didn't believe there was any one way to to navigate through math or art. He really did more than just teach material. He really just helped kids believe in themselves."
Klarich has known Kelly Fulton all her life. They both graduated from Senior High School in 2001.
Their mothers knew each other, even before her mother was pregnant with her, and Kelly's mother was pregnant with him and his fraternal twin brother Ross.
"His Nana loved to tell the story about how the two of us were bickering out on the T-ball field, and the ball was flying over our heads," Klarich said. "So he was like a brother to me."
Klarich and her fiance Nash Emrich are longtime friends and recently had an extended stay with a family in Bozeman.
"I've had the chance to live with he and his wife, who was always an open door and open arms," Klarich said.
"That was a perfect place to be and they had room for us," Emrich said. "And it also then served a dual purpose of finding quality time with them, and really becoming even closer."
Emrich met Kelly Fulton at Montana State University in Bozeman.
They also worked as architects for a Billings firm before Kelly moved into teaching.
"He would be confident in that and chart his own path, but also wanted to bring people along with him," Emrich said.
In 2011, Kelly and Elizabeth Fulton started Run! Turkey Run!, a Thanksgiving day run in Billings.
"He saw there wasn't a Thanksgiving run here and a lot of communities have turkey runs," Klarich said. "So he decided, well, let's just do a 5K. And let's do a fundraiser for the Billings Food Bank, and it gained a lot of speed and momentum. And Kelly was really a big force behind that."
"He was obviously very driven and motivated, but he also was a collaborator," Emrich said. "So I think that the coolest part about that was he had an idea, and he had the drive to help implement it, but it was really a partnership with so many others. Using his humble nature to take this idea but share it with others and make it better in that way."
Kelly ran cross country in Bozeman and was All-America at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.
As a musician, he played the euphonium and he was a sketch artist.
But Klarich says you would never know it from talking with him. "Kelly was incredibly humble," Klarich said. "And he really just cared about connecting with people."
"A goofy, fun-loving guy, larger than life," Emrich said about his friend. "And I think about his smile and his laugh and all the ways that he wanted to bring joy into the world."
Kelly's sister, Anna Sackmann, talked about her brother off-camera. "What a great brother he was," Sackmann said.
A service will be held for Kelly Fulton at Mayflower Church, 2940 Poly Dr. in Billings, on Wednesday at 11 am. Another service will be held in Bozeman in about two weeks. Sackmann says the details will be announced later.
An online fundraiser has been launched to support Fulton's family.
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