Don­ald Kell­ner: life­time of ser­vice to union, re­tirees and the com­mu­nity

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­

Don Kell­ner was a union rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Beth­le­hem Steel. Joe Cristy rep­re­sented man­age­ment.

So when their was an em­ployee griev­ance, they found them­selves on op­po­site sides of the ta­ble.

“I would present man­age­ment’s side of it, and Don would present the union side,” Cristy re­called this week of Kell­ner, who passed away last week at the age of 83. “We would ar­gue like cats and dogs.

“We were best friends, but we both had our jobs to do. He would call me all sorts of names, and then af­ter­wards call me on the phone and say he didn’t mean any of

those things he called me.”

And then they some­times went out for a beer.

Kell­ner de­voted much of his life to the work­ers at the steel mill, the union and the steel­worker re­tirees.

“It will be kind of hard to run the lo­cals with­out him be­ing here,” said Tom Capecci, a re­tired steel­worker, union mem­ber of friend of Don’s. “He took care of ev­ery­thing. He went out of his way to help any­one with a prob­lem.

If some­one needed a cou­ple hun­dred peo­ple for a rally in Wash­ing­ton to fight for re­tiree’s ben­e­fits, Don would or­ga­nize some bus trips.”

Don was the pres­i­dent of the Steel­worker’s Union Lo­cal 2609. He joined the re­tirees group af­ter his own re­tire­ment, and when Lo­cal 2609 merged with lo­cal 2610, he was pres­i­dent of the new Lo­cal 9477.

In ad­di­tion, Kell­ner was pres­i­dent of the Steel­work­ers Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Ac­tive Re­tirees (SOAR). He was still pres­i­dent of both when he passed away.

“He never missed a meet­ing, even when he lost the use of his legs,” Capecci said. “His wife, Betty, would bring him to meet­ings in his wheel­chair. He never let it get him down.

“It was such a shock when

Betty called me that morn­ing to tell me he had passed away. Every­one is go­ing to miss him.”

A na­tive Dun­dalkian, Kell­ner grad­u­ated from Dun­dalk High in 1955 and im­me­di­ately went to work at Beth­le­hem Steel. He re­tired af­ter 40 years.

But Don didn’t re­strict him­self to just help­ing out steel­work­ers.

He was ac­tive in sports, coach­ing foot­ball for the Gray-Charles recre­ation coun­cil, play­ing for soft­ball teams at Beth­le­hem Steel, and play­ing, coach­ing and um­pir­ing men’s slow-pitch soft­ball.

“He was a good um­pire,” Cristy said. “He would be in­vited to um­pire a huge na­tional tour­na­ment in Wild­wood [N.J.],” Cristy said.

Kell­ner ran the “Bucket Brigade” at the Dun­dalk July 4 Pa­rade, a group of peo­ple car­ry­ing buck­ets with which to so­licit do­na­tions from peo­ple watch­ing the pa­rade.

The money would go to­ward the pa­rade fund. Kell­ner and his vol­un­teers would walk the en­tire pa­rade length with their buck­ets.

When walk­ing be­came an is­sue for Don a few years ago, he passed the Brigade over to Cristy.

Don and Betty also con­tacted march­ing bands from out of the area to be in the July 4 Pa­rade, and found places for the band mem­bers to stay while in town.

He also worked with the Mary­land Food Bank and Har­vest for the Hun­gry to help peo­ple in need.

“He was di­rect,” Cristy said. “You knew where you stood with Don­ald. The union wouldn’t have been as strong with­out hm. Dun­dalk lost a good one.”

Don was also in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing the mon­u­ment to steel­work­ers who lost their lives in ac­ci­dents at the mill.

The mon­u­ment stood in front of the old Union Hall on Dun­dalk Av­enue. When the Hall was sold, Kell­ner led the ef­fort to move the mon­u­ment to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion in Her­itage Park.

“Don didn’t do all these things for peo­ple’s grat­i­tude,” Cristy said. “He did them be­cause he wanted to do them.”

When the COVID-19 pan­demic even­tu­ally passed, Capecci said Kell­ner was go­ing to lead a cer­e­mony at the mon­u­ment “to let them know we hadn’t for­got­ten about them.”

The cur­rent con­di­tion of the area where Beth­le­hem Steel once stood pained Kell­ner, Capecci said. A com­pany, TradePoint At­lantic, is de­vel­op­ing the prop­erty with ware­houses and stores.

“Don would get tears in his eyes when we vis­ited the Point,” Capecci said. “It’s rough now, see­ing it. Don would be very emo­tional about it; they de­mol­ished ev­ery­thing — all the of­fices, mills and shops. We never thought it would be that bad.”

Trib­utes and mem­o­ries to Don Kell­ner can also be found on the Face­book page: “I worked at Spar­rows Point.”


Don Kell­ner dur­ing the 2011La­bor Day Pa­rade in Her­itage Park.

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