He began as an apprentice plasterer in his native Kildare and ended up owning a quarter of Sunderland Football Club. In between, Patrick Joseph Kelly or 'Gentle Paddy', as he was known, amassed a fortune in building and development and, unlike many of his peers, managed to keep most of it.
Paddy Kelly confessed quite openly at the height of the boom that the Celtic Tiger phenomenon didn't make sense to him -- and if he didn't understand it he was not going to put all his eggs in a basket that he considered had its fair share of holes.
Though he was still a major builder in Dublin his conservative approach paid dividends when the crash came.
He moved into Eastern Europe and London and the US long before it became fashionable among the Irish developers, though his Irish building company, Kelland Homes, was responsible for many of the housing estates that dot South Dublin -- some of them pre-dating the boom years, including the Orchard Estate, off Fortfield Road in Terenure, as well as a number of estates in Tallaght and Clondalkin, all built to the exacting specifications that was to become a Kelland Homes trademark.
Paddy Kelly was 68 when he died last Sunday after a 10-year battle with leukaemia, though he had a long and fruitful period of remission until the illness returned some 18 months ago.
During his final days, spent at his home in Dublin 2, he was cared for by Mary, his wife of 45 years.
His funeral last Wednesday, in his home parish of Suncroft, Co Kildare, took place after he was waked in his original family home in the townland of Martinstown.
St Bridget's Church was packed with hundreds of mourners which included the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, the chairman of Sunderland, Niall Quinn, and almost all of Ireland's best known developers, many of whom, like Seamus Ross and Michael Whelan, gained much of their experience working for Paddy.
As well as the Bailey brothers, Michael and Tom, who were great personal friends, the obsequies were also attended by leading figures from the GAA world, horse racing, the building trade and numerous neighbours and friends built up over a long and successful career.
The nickname 'Gentle Paddy' was coined to differentiate the man from Suncroft, who was blessed with an old style courtliness and unassuming manner, with his namesake and good friend but now troubled developer 'Posh' Paddy Kelly, from Shrewsbury Road.
But 'Gentle Paddy' was a tough and shrewd businessman who didn't suffer fools, though he was easy going and was a devoted family man.
Paddy was a father of six, five daughters and a son; Claire, Lisa, Tracey, Paula, Anne-Marie and Patrick. He began his working life as a plasterer in Kildare before moving to London in 1962 where he met his wife Mary (nee Kelly) and got married. They returned to Ireland in 1970 and, with Mary's help, Paddy bought his first four sites in Newbridge.
Although the first houses he built took a while to sell, it was the start of a very successful relationship with Joe Shannon, who was his partner in Kelland Homes. They went on to build larger estates in Tallaght, Clondalkin, Dundrum on the southside and in Swords in North Dublin.
Separate from Kelland Homes, Paddy formed an investment vehicle, Markland Holdings, with his friend Sean Mulryan in the 1980s to acquire and manage commercial properties at home and abroad.