Thursday, April 3, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 14 Edward Ebert Kelly

Dear Ed,
I don't know exactly how to address you. Though I have been part of your son Ed's life since 1967, I only met you twice. Mr. Kelly seems a little too formal so I hope you don't mind if I settle on Ed. Today would have been your 88th birthday. You left this life so early, in 1987 at just 61. I don't know how many of your family will pause to remember you today. Leaving too early really sums up your life, doesn't it?

There were a lot of early leavings in your life. Born the fifth of six children of William Joseph and Alice Mae Hanna Kelly, three girls, followed by three boys, you were the middle boy. Following the typical Irish family naming pattern, you were to be named for your maternal grandfather Edward Everett Hanna. Unfortunately, the clerk who was registering your name misspelled Everett and you became Edward Ebert Kelly.

Your father worked as a weaver in a cotton mill. In the 1930 Federal Census the family is living at 5320 Westminster Avenue in Philadelphia. No photographs of the house where you lived have been passed down but describes the address as a single family home built in 1925, 2 stories with 1,108 sq. ft. on a 2,200 sq. ft. lot. By our standards today, 1,108 sq. ft. for a family of eight would seem very crowded conditions. Probably 3 bedrooms, one for your parents, one for your sisters, and then the one you shared with your brothers. Things were tough, it was the middle of the depression. There were plenty of Kelly and Hanna relatives in your West Philadelphia neighborhood so you were really part of an extended clan.

Things became a lot tougher for your family when your father died September 17, 1939. You were only 13.
There is some mystery surrounding William Joseph Kelly's death. The family lore said that he was killed in a bar room brawl. We ordered his death certificate from Philadelphia last year and it says that his body was found in the street having suffered severe head trauma. As far as we know, all of the people who knew what really happened are gone now so we won't have the answers here.

Soon, most of the family had gone to work. Your sisters Marie, Alice and Dot were all working at least 16 hours a week as cotton winders in a rubber factory. Your brother Bill is the only one who was listed as having worked all 52 weeks of the previous year. The family was living in a rented row house at 663 Conestoga Street in Philadelphia. The monthly rent was $19.
This image from shows the typical row house on Conestoga Street
Aunt Marie often told stories of how difficult the situation was. She said that the electrical meter in the house required coins to run, so if no one had money there were no lights.The family often depended on help from the local Catholic Parish.

We do not know how long you were able to remain in school. I know that Marie had to leave high school after two years to go to work. Alice left high school after 1 year. Dot left high school after 2 years. Your older brother only finished 8th grade. The 1940 census says that you had completed 7th grade. That would have been normal for your age. When you enlisted in the Army, July 21, 1944 the record shows that you had 4 years of high school. It also states that your civilian occupation was "pressmen and plate printers, printing."
That information matches with our knowledge of your many years working for the Philadelphia Bulletin.

You really hit the jackpot when you were stationed at Fort Ord on the Monterey Peninsula in California. Your son Ed was stationed at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey from 1974-76 and it is a beautiful place to live. How different it must have been from the old neighborhood in West Philadelphia.

Private Edward Ebert Kelly, U. S. Army
Photograph signed "With all my love, Eddie'" presumably to
Pauline Haas his future wife. Image from author's personal collection.
The war was over before you could be shipped overseas and you returned to Philadelphia. We hope to learn more about your time table when the "Pennsylvania, Veteran Compensation Applications, WWII, 1950" database is completed at So far, they are only beginning to publish the images for surnames beginning with H.

The story of how you met Pauline has been lost. We know that you lived in the same neighborhood. Two years younger, she would not have been in your class in school but you may well have attended the same school. You did not attend the same church, you being Roman Catholic and she Protestant. Were there local dances or parties, did you have friends in common? In any event, you married October 25, 1947.
Newly married Edward Ebert and Pauline Nelda Haas Kelly
Photo from author's personal collection.
Your nephew Dan Foley, provided us with a photograph of your wedding party.
From left Marie Kelly Beaumont, Louise Haas Watson, Pauline, Ed, Bill Kelly and Jack Kelly
You settled into a house on McKinley street and had two boys in quick succession. You continued to work running presses at the Philadelphia Bulletin Newspaper mostly working the graveyard shift. My Ed remembers he and Russ being held by their Mom while you said goodbye for a while the first time. A couple of years later there was a reconciliation and a move to Rancocas Heights, N.J. and three more children Patty, Bobby and Doreen. Unfortunately, the reconciliation did not last and you were soon back in Philadelphia on your own.

Ed holding sons Russ and Ed circa 1951 on McKinley Street
You left too early to participate in the raising of your children. Pauline did a terrific job on her own. I'm glad that you reconciled with the children shortly before your death. Still I can't help but think about all you've missed. My Ed was still hurting from your absence when I met him. He has made his own children his top priority. It's a shame you didn't do the same because all of your children turned out pretty special.

Cecily Cone Kelly