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the Dog Blog

The Patriarch of the Bil-Jac Family

Image of the Kelly family in front of Bil-Jac's truck

In Memory of Bill Kelly

Bill Kelly, Founder of Bil-Jac DogfoodBill Kelly, who researched and developed optimum pet nutrition with the launch of his post-World War II dog food brand in 1947, Bil-Jac, passed away on September 27th in his Medina, Ohio home. He was 95 years old. He celebrated a life committed to animal nutrition, family and philanthropy.
Since his company’s inception, Mr. Kelly’s research, patented processing breakthroughs, and nutritional innovation positively affected the lives of millions of dogs, cats and their pet parents worldwide. He is credited with the vision to create not only Bil-Jac’s coveted frozen dog food formula, but the food the company is known for today – its dry line of premium food, as well as an extensive line of dog treats. Mr. Kelly was also a founding member of the Pet Food Institute. An advocate for pet health and well-being, Mr. Kelly has forever left his footprint on the pet food industry.Mr. Kelly attended Hiram College and was long known as a visionary. He was well-regarded not only for his passion of the pet nutrition industry, but of life-long learning and family, overall. He was an encouraging mentor, an uplifting chairman, a stalwart leader, and a true and compassionate humanitarian.

Mr. Kelly was involved in many non-profit community organizations, serving for 12 years on the Highland School Board, where he was the founding member of the Highland Schools Foundation for Educational Excellence. He also served 39 years on the Medina Hospital board, where he was the founding member of the hospital's foundation, and a grantor of numerous scholarships

Above all, Mr. Kelly was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He is survived by his three sons, Bob, Ray and James, who remain in leadership positions within the Bil-Jac family-run organization, as well as seven grandchildren, six great grandchildren and the rest of the Bil-Jac Family. His legacy and dedication to pet health and wellness will live on at Bil-Jac.

Facts about Bill Kelly

Growing Up:
    • Young BillBorn January 14, 1918 in Perry, New York. Raised on his family’s farm in Thompson, Ohio and then later moved to Medina, Ohio with mother, father, sister, Gene, and a brother, Jack.
    • Attended Hiram College.
    • Bill met his future wife and love of his life, Ruth, in 1940.
    • Bill and his two siblings proudly served their country during WWII. Bill was drafted into the Army in 1944.
    • In December of 1944, Bill and Ruth were married, spending a total of 68 loving years together.


                                                           Bill Kelly and his wife Ruth
A Philanthropic Life:
    • Bill Kelly is well known for his research, patented processing, and nutrition innovation, as well as being a strong community supporter.
    • He served on the Board of Medina General Hospital for 35 years where he was the founding member of the Medina General Hospital Foundation.
    • He was a Board Member of The Old Phoenix Bank.
    • For 12 years, Bill was also a Board Member for Highland Schools (6 years as president) and a founding member of the Highland Schools Foundation for Educational Excellence.
    • Bill and Ruth have also supported five high school scholarship programs and one college scholarship program.
    • He established the Granger United Methodist Church Endowment Fund.
    • He was elected to the Greater Medina County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame


Awards and Honors:
    • Bill received the Hiram College Alumni Achievement Award and was a member of the Garfield Society, honoring outstanding civic and business leaders.
    • Bill was the recipient of The Jewel of our Communities Award from Leave A Legacy of Summit, Portage and Medina Counties.
Professional Life:
    • After the war ended, Bill and Ruth returned to the family farm. Bill, and his brother Jack, started working on a new dog food.
    • Bill had seen the difference diet could make in the health of the animals on the family farm, so he knew there must be a better way to create a nutritious dog food. Knowing that protein from fresh chicken along with other fresh ingredients would be a better match for a dog’s nutritional needs than the vegetable proteins and gluten that were being used back then.


    • He worked hard for months to find the optimal formula. To preserve the freshness and the nutrients in the dog food, Bill froze it. It simply needed to be thawed and served.
    • In 1947, Bil-Jac, named after the two brothers, was born. With its unique formulation and manufacturing process, Bil-Jac became the first patented dog food in 1951.
    • Competing against forty six other Ohio dog food companies, the brothers gained business by knocking on doors and giving out free samples. Bill suggested putting a little Bil-Jac in a bowl next to the dog’s current food. The dogs always chose Bil-Jac, and the Bil-Jac Two Bowl Challenge became a part of Bil-Jac. Both dog breeders and dog parents saw the amazing difference Bil-Jac made, word spread all over Ohio and the company grew.
    • In the early 1970s, Bill asked his two oldest sons, Bob and Ray, to join the company. Both left special education teaching jobs to work closely with their Dad. Jim, Bill’s youngest son, joined the company in 1980.
    • In the 1980s, Bill formulated a dry dog food that was made with a lot of fresh chicken – it used more fresh chicken than other dog foods since it was gently cooked and dried and not made via a high temperature, high pressure process like other dogs foods. The company also launched their now well-known soft Liver Treats that dogs just love. These products are sold in pet stores nationwide.
    • Committed to the pet food industry, Bill was a founding member of the Pet Food Institute (PFI) in Washington, D.C. in 1958.
    • Bill was Chairman of the Board at Bil-Jac Foods. Bil-Jac products are now available worldwide and the company is one of the largest privately held pet food manufacturers in the world with manufacturing facilities in Medina, OH and Berlin, MD.
    • While Bill remained involved in the business, several years ago he turned over the day-to-day operations of Bil-Jac to sons Bob, Ray and Jim.
    • Bill’s sons, just like their Dad, are dedicated to high-quality dog food made in a unique way to help preserve taste and nutrition. To the Kelly’s, Bil-Jac is more than a family business, it is their life’s work and passion. They will continue their father’s legacy, to help millions of dogs to live a long and happy life.


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