An Appreciation of the life of Edward Kelly

Don Bren­nan, long-time ex­ec­ut­ive ed­it­or of the News Glean­er, re­mem­bers Ed Kelly's pas­sion and per­sist­ence when he was push­ing one of his pro­jects. A fu­ner­al Mass was held today for Kelly, a ma­jor con­trib­ut­or to life in North­east Philly.

It was 1978 or 1979 when I first en­countered Ed­ward T. Kelly. I was fresh out of Temple Uni­versity, wear­ing my Journ­al­ism de­gree on my sleeve, ready to set rivers on fire, and here was Ed Kelly lit­er­ally run­ning around the main ban­quet room at the Dor­al Cater­ers in Rhawn­hurst with me in hot pur­suit.

Well, I was try­ing to catch up to him any­way.

“Rizzo’s com­ing!  Rizzo’s com­ing, kid!” he said, frantic­ally pla­cing ma­ter­i­als on each table in the hall shortly be­fore a Great­er North­east Phil­adelphia Cham­ber of Com­merce lunch­eon at which former May­or Frank L. Rizzo had sched­uled a last-minute ap­pear­ance.

“Got a lot to do today,” he said, breath­lessly.  “Got no time to talk to you today.”

Weekly news­pa­per re­port­ers—es­pe­cially in the days when the dailies were king—are very fa­mil­i­ar with re­jec­tion. However, Ed Kelly prom­ised me an in­ter­view at a later date.

“Stick around for lunch, kid,” he said. “You know Rizzo, he’s al­ways en­ter­tain­ing.”

 I don’t re­mem­ber much about the lunch, but Ed Kelly was as good as his word. We met a few days later, and thus began a friend­ship that las­ted over 30 years un­til his death Aug. 20 at age 86.

In his hey­day, Ed Kelly might have been the greatest pro­moter of his time. But, frankly, he rarely spoke to me about him­self. It was through oth­ers that I learned about his per­son­al suc­cesses and his un­dy­ing love for his fam­ily.

He lit­er­ally de­voted much of his adult life to the Pennypack Park Mu­sic Fest­iv­al, and once a cause worked its way in­to his heart, look out: He would not give up un­til he got your at­ten­tion.

Dur­ing my nearly 28 years at the News Glean­er news­pa­pers, Ed Kelly planted him­self in my of­fice on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions on be­half of pro­jects that be­nefited oth­ers or for people who needed help. He was so pas­sion­ate about some things, he would break down and cry.

He grew up in the teeth of the De­pres­sion, and like so many oth­ers from that era, he nev­er for­got how lucky he was to have sur­vived.

Every now and then, you across someone like Ed Kelly, and you’re bet­ter be­cause of it.

Heav­en, be­ware: Tell the an­gels to tune their trum­pets. You’ve got a mu­sic fest­iv­al com­ing your way.


(Don Bren­nan was ex­ec­ut­ive ed­it­or of the News Glean­er news­pa­pers from 1978 to 2006).

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