Ed­ward J.S. Kelly

The gre­gar­i­ous re­tailer worked at many of Bal­ti­more’s old-line depart­ment stores dur­ing a 40-year ca­reer

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Tim Pru­dente tpru­dente@balt­sun.com

When walk­ing to a restau­rant in Re­hoboth Beach, Del., with Ed­ward Kelly, one learned to start out early.

“You couldn’t walk down the street with­out Ed­die stop­ping and talk­ing to some­body,” said Robert Hughes, his part­ner of 38 years. “If I didn’t give him enough lead time, we’d be late for our reser­va­tion.”

A gre­gar­i­ous re­tailer who worked in the old-line depart­ment stores of Bal­ti­more, Ed­ward Joseph Ste­wart Kelly died Fri­day of cancer at his home in Re­hoboth Beach. He was 62.

Mr. Kelly worked more than 40 years in re­tail, ris­ing from Re­hoboth’s Board­walk Five and Ten Cent Store to at­tend­ing de­signer menswear shows in Paris. He be­friended co-work­ers and cus­tomers along the way — even the nurses who lin­gered around his hos­pi­tal room, Hughes said.

“He just glowed with peo­ple,” Mr. Hughes said. “I al­ways joked with him that I would have to get him those blin­ders they put on horses.”

His ca­reer co­in­cided with the de­cline of the grand depart­ment stores, but he con­tin­ued to sell, work­ing re­cent sum­mers in a mom-and-pop bou­tique at the beach.

“He could talk for­ever,” said El­liott Gold, his su­per­vi­sor in the late 1990s at Value City in Ca­tonsville. Mr. Kelly man­aged the jew­elry depart­ment un­til 2007.

“I’d look at him and say, ‘Ed, you just spent an hour and 45 min­utes with this woman.’ ” Mr. Gold said.

And Mr. Kelly would an­swer, “‘Well, she wanted to talk about her kids and the prob­lem she had over here,’ ” Mr. Gold said. “That’s just what he would do.”

The son of Joseph B. Kelly, a thor­ough­bred rac­ing writer, and M. Ste­wart Mon­aghan Kelly, a so­cial worker, Mr. Kelly was born in Bal­ti­more and raised on Guil­ford Av­enue in Charles Vil­lage. He at­tended Bal­ti­more Academy of the Visi­ta­tion, then grad­u­ated from City Col­lege in 1971, where he edited the year­book, the Green Bag.

He stud­ied art his­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County and earned a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in 1975.

Mr. Kelly started work­ing sum­mers in Re­hoboth Beach at the Hen­lopen Ho­tel in 1970. On week­ends, he man­aged the ho­tel’s board­walk cof­fee shop.

He worked in the early 1970s as a sales­man in Bal­ti­more at the Linda Lynn dress shop on Lex­ing­ton Street and a cashier at Wag­ner’s food mar­ket in Waverly.

Next, he bought sta­tionery and served as as­sis­tant man­ager at the Hochschild Kohn store in Harun­dale Mall.

Gi­ant Foods Inc. opened cloth­ing stores, Pants Cor­rals, in the 1970s to sell Levi’s jeans. Mr. Kelly be­came a buyer in 1980, trav­el­ing each year to Levi Strauss & Co. fac­to­ries.

Richard Looman ar­rived from Ohio to work at Pants Cor­ral in Fe­bru­ary 1982. There was Mr. Kelly.

“Within five min­utes, I’m like, ‘Oh my God,, now I have a friend.’ ” Mr. Looman said.

Af­ter Mr. Looman left for a job at Hut­zler’s depart­ment store, he called Mr. Kelly and en­cour­aged him to come along.

Mr. Kelly joined Hut­zler’s in 1984 and be­came a buyer for de­signer menswear. He trav­eled to woolen mills in Mi­lan and at­tended de­signer shows in Paris. He also helped plan the ren­o­vated down­town store in 1986.

He con­tin­ued at Hut­zler’s as as­sis­tant man­ager of its Tow­son store and man­ager in White Marsh un­til the stores closed by1990. Then he went into jew­elry.

Han­nah Mazo worked with Mr. Kelly at Hut­zler’s. Af­ter the store closed, she went shop­ping at Value City on one Black Fri­day with the crowds.

Any­one in re­tail, she said, has dis­tinct ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the bed­lam of Black Fri­day, the day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing. She spot­ted Mr. Kelly bent over at the jew­elry counter.

“He looked at me and just said, ‘ What are you do­ing here? Are you nuts?’ ” Ms. Mazo said. “He screamed it across the floor, and ev­ery­body looked around. It was funny, quite funny.”

In re­cent sum­mers, he worked at the gift shop Sea Finds. Though a mo­mand-pop bou­tique, Mr. Kelly be­stowed on owner Al Abrams the ti­tle of “vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions, East Coast divi­sion.”

“Cus­tomers would come in and ask for him,” owner Linda Abrams said.

Mr. Kelly was ready when an­other shop­per stalled over a pur­chase and promised to be back.

“He­would say, ‘I’ll put you on the be-back bus,’ ” Linda Abrams said.

At the shop, Mr. Kelly would bring the Abram­ses home­made choco­late sauce and the mac­a­roni and cheese he made with three, some­times four, cheeses.

Mr. Kelly was a mem­ber of the Re­hoboth Art League and vol­un­teered in the kitchen at Ep­worth United Methodist Church.

He also scoured eBay for old pho­tos and post­cards of Re­hoboth, as well as restau­rant match­books and menus. He lent some of the items to the Re­hoboth Beach His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety.

A Mass will be held 10 a.m. to­day at St. Ed­mond Catholic Church, 409 King Charles Ave., Re­hoboth Beach.

Mr. Kelly is sur­vived by Mr. Hughes, whom he mar­ried in 2014. Sur­vivors also in­clude his brother, Jac­ques Kelly of Bal­ti­more, a re­porter for The Bal­ti­more Sun; and sis­ters Ellen Cora Kelly, Mary Ste­wart Kelly and Josephine O’Rourke of Bal­ti­more and Ann Rose Wha­ley of Ocean View, Del. Ed­ward Kelly rose from the Board­walk Five and Ten Cent Store to at­tend­ing menswear de­signer shows in Paris.

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