Ed Comly, veterans advocate, dies at 87

Ed Comly stands out­side his house. Comly formed the Bustleton Me­mori­al Post Amer­ic­an Le­gion with oth­er vet­er­ans of WWII.


Ed­ward H. “Ed” Comly Sr. was more than a lifelong North­east Phil­adelphia res­id­ent. He was a com­munity icon.

Raised dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion to a loc­al farm­ing fam­ily, Comly served at Nor­mandy and in the Battle of the Bulge dur­ing World War II be­fore re­turn­ing to the area and be­com­ing one of its lead­ing vet­er­ans ad­voc­ates while rais­ing a fam­ily of his own.

He al­ways brought a smile and kind words to the many com­munity meet­ings he at­ten­ded reg­u­larly for dec­ades.

Comly’s life of ser­vice came to an end last Wed­nes­day as he passed away in an area hos­pit­al fol­low­ing re­cent sur­gery. The long­time Bustleton res­id­ent was 87.

In death, the tall, lanky char­ac­ter known to friends as “Slim” is be­ing re­membered as a de­vout sol­dier and fam­ily pat­ri­arch.

“We were just watch­ing TV the oth­er night. It was a show about Nor­mandy,” said Ed Comly Jr., one of his three sons. “They were show­ing (sol­diers) bring­ing pon­toons from the ships to bring tanks in and he said, ‘I built that.’ He was al­ways watch­ing World War II shows.”

Among his many ac­com­plish­ments, the eld­er Comly’s mil­it­ary ser­vice stands out as a de­fin­ing one. Al­though eli­gible for a draft ex­emp­tion due to his work on the fam­ily farm, Comly en­lis­ted in the Army any­way.

“I didn’t want to be seen as a draft dodger,” he told the North­east Times in 2007.

He and loc­al pal Joe Heller signed up, trained and were de­ployed to­geth­er.

Comly sailed for Europe in April 1944. By June 6 that year, D-Day, he had be­come part of the largest am­phi­bi­ous in­va­sion force that the world had ever seen. His 992nd En­gin­eer Tread­way Bridge Com­pany of the 8th Ar­mored Di­vi­sion em­barked at Ply­mouth, Eng­land, and landed on the beaches of Nor­mandy.

The com­pany built and guarded tread­way pon­toon bridges span­ning rivers, creeks and ditches al­low­ing Al­lied tanks and in­fantry to ad­vance across the con­tin­ent to­ward Ber­lin. Comly’s out­fit crossed the Vire and Meuse rivers in France, the Al­bert Canal in Bel­gi­um and the Ruhr and Elbe rivers in Ger­many, meet­ing up with Rus­si­an forces about 50 miles west of the Ger­man cap­it­al.

The war in Europe ended soon after.

Then Comly re­turned to his fath­er’s farm on Grant Av­en­ue near the present-day site of North­east Air­port.

As a youth, Comly helped his fam­ily grow ve­get­ables and flowers that they would cart to the old Read­ing Ter­min­al Mar­ket to sell and barter. He at­ten­ded St. Luke’s Me­mori­al Church and gradu­ated from Frank­ford High School.

Des­pite his 6-foot-3 frame, sports were not an op­tion as there was work to be done.

“There was no fool­ing around. The only thing was go­ing to a movie on Sat­urday night,” he said.

His broth­er J. Byron Comly Jr., also a mil­it­ary vet­er­an, op­er­ated Comly Flower Shop in Bustleton.

Ed Comly mar­ried his child­hood sweet­heart, Ann Curry, after the war. To­geth­er they raised sons Ed Jr., Jay and Ron.

Ann passed away in 1971. In time, Ed Sr. mar­ried an­oth­er lifelong friend, Jayne Vaders, who brought a daugh­ter Jayne in­to the mar­riage. The eld­er Jayne passed away in 1996.

Comly is sur­vived by sev­en grand­chil­dren and sev­en great-grand­chil­dren.

He was a re­l­at­ive of Wat­son T. Comly, a 19th cen­tury loc­al farm­er and school board mem­ber after whom the Wat­son T. Comly School is named. Comly Road is also named after the fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to Ed Jr.

Among the eld­er Comly’s many ef­forts in sup­port of mil­it­ary vet­er­ans, he co-foun­ded Bustleton Post 810 of the Amer­ic­an Le­gion.

“He and my uncle Doc (Byron) were founders and my fath­er was the old­est liv­ing mem­ber,” Ed Jr. said.

The eld­er Comly also was one of the driv­ing forces in the cre­ation of the Delaware Val­ley Vet­er­ans Home at Roosevelt Boulevard and Southamp­ton Road, team­ing with Vin­cent Mal­atesta. Comly served on the home’s board of dir­ect­ors for a year. Mal­atesta passed away in 2007.

Comly also was a long­time mem­ber of the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars Post 6617, the Delaware Val­ley Vet­er­ans of the Battle of the Bulge, Great­er Bustleton Civic League and the 7th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil.

In 2007, Comly was chosen as the grand mar­shal of the an­nu­al Somer­ton Me­mori­al Day Parade on Bustleton Av­en­ue, al­though he re­fused to ac­cept the la­bel of “hero.” He did what most young men did at the time.

“I felt that if I was go­ing to be at home, what was I go­ing to do? Have people say, ‘Why are you still over here, Comly?’” he said. ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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