By MADDY VITALE and DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Tim Kelly was a spokesman, a reporter, an author, a colleague, a friend, a devoted son and father who made it all look easy, even when it wasn’t.
All anyone has to do is view some of his sports stories or historical pieces about Ocean City to see his talent.
He could turn a phrase. He was quick-witted. He could joke and use just a hint of sarcasm to make you laugh.
Kelly will not be forgotten for his accomplishments in a career that spanned over 50 years and produced award-winning pieces as well as a book. The Ocean City resident died Monday after battling brain cancer for two years. He was 70.
He did so much for so many. He touched the lives of others, whether it was telling a story that needed to be told or caring for his late mother when she was ill.
His daughter, Devon, recounted some of her fondest memories of her father while spending time together in Ocean City.
“My dad brought me to the Doo Dah Parade every year to see the basset hounds, rounded me up to see Soupy Sales on the Boardwalk, took me every Fourth of July to watch fireworks from Gram’s balcony at Gardens Plaza, and just emanated the pride he had for being an Ocean City resident,” she said.
Kelly wrote for the MediaWize digital news sites, primarily OCNJDaily.com, owned by Ken Wisnefski.
Wisnefski recalled some of Kelly’s attributes that will be missed and remembered.
“Tim was someone who always greeted you with a smile. He enjoyed writing so much and took great pride in his work,” Wisnefski said. “I consider myself lucky to have had Tim as part of our team at OCNJDaily, and I’m really going to miss him and hearing all of his great ideas. He truly was someone special.”
Mike DeVlieger, a friend and colleague of Kelly’s at OCNJDaily.com, called him “a gentleman and an incredibly creative talent that I am blessed to have learned from and worked with.”
“He could make the mundane very humorous. He was a devoted son and caretaker to his mother and regularly bragged about his daughter Devon. He will be missed and never forgotten,” DeVlieger said.
For those who never knew Kelly, maybe looking at some of his articles he wrote for MediaWize may make you feel like you did or had a sense of what he was about.
In particular, he showed a flair and fondness for Ocean City history, writing about diverse topics such as the “Great Boardwalk Fire” of 1927, the legendary Sindia shipwreck of 1901 and even Hobo the dog, the town’s beloved four-legged mascot in the 1920s and ’30s.
Here are some excerpts from his writings:
“Long before Martin Z. Mollusk, there was Hobo.”
“Decades prior to Martin, Ocean City’s official hermit crab mascot who is, with all due respect, a person in a costume, there was a living, breathing four-legged ambassador named Hobo,” he wrote in the first two paragraphs in an Oct. 24, 2021, story to introduce the dog.
In a Dec. 14, 2018, story, he gave a new and clever twist to the famed Sindia shipwreck that was a unique part of Ocean City’s landscape for decades after it ran aground in 1901.
“Ocean City’s most famous shipwreck really wasn’t a shipwreck at all. At least not in the traditional sense most people think of.”
“The Sindia, a 329-foot sailing cargo ship, actually ran aground off Ocean City, 117 years ago to the day this Saturday. It settled not far from the beach between 16th and 17th streets and parts of the ship remained visible to beachgoers as late as the 1980s,” he wrote.
John Loeper, who heads the Ocean City Historical Museum and the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, spoke of Kelly’s accuracy and ease of interview style that made him a pleasure to speak with.
“He was always right on with the history. He was always accurate. He did his research,” Loeper said.
Loeper, who knew Kelly for decades — possibly 40 years — spoke of his sadness at his passing.
“It’s a loss of a good wordsmith with the knowledge behind it,” he said. “He was able to create a story that was worth reading.”
He also touched upon Kelly’s interview style.
“They were very easy interviews. He was always well-versed in the topic,” Loeper recalled. “I have done thousands of interviews and whenever I have done one with him, it was always very accurate, and I was never misquoted.”
Kelly wrote a book released in 2013 about Red Klotz titled: “The Legend of Red Klotz: How Basketball’s Loss Leader Won Over the World — 14,000 Times.”
Klotz was a professional basketball player who was born in 1920 and died in 2014. He was a National Basketball Association (NBA) point guard with the original Baltimore Bullets. But he was best known for forming the teams that played against and toured with the Harlem Globetrotters: the Washington Generals and the New York Nationals, according to Wikipedia.
Over Klotz’s professional basketball career, he coached or played in over 14,000 games.
Kelly, who grew up in Collingswood, Camden County, met Klotz in the 1990s during his 20-year stretch as head of public relations for then Richard Stockton College, now Stockton University.
Stockton University issued a statement about Kelly and his contributions to the college as a key staff member during the early stages of the school’s public information program.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of Tim’s passing. In the 20 years that he was an employee at Stockton University, he was essential in developing our communications strategy,” said Geoffrey Pettifer, Stockton’s associate vice president for University Relations and Marketing. “He was an original member of the university’s External Affairs department, which is now the Office of University Relations and Marketing.”
In 2013, Kelly was interviewed about his book by the Philadelphia Inquirer. He spoke of what drove him to devote six years of interviews and writing to tell the tale of Red Klotz.
Inquirer reporter Kevin Riordan wrote this in the article, “Tim Kelly realized early on that his book about Louis “Red” Klotz needed to be more than a basketball story.”
“Red’s the greatest shooter who ever lived, and that wasn’t even the best part of his game,” Kelly said then of the gentlemanly, yet fiercely competitive, fellow who helped introduce American basketball to the postwar world.
“Sometimes suiting up as the Jersey Reds, the team Klotz established and still owns lost to the Harlem Globetrotters in all but one of 14,000 contests worldwide,” Kelly wrote in a portion of the book.
But it didn’t matter. Klotz had a story that Kelly was going to tell to show what an important impact he made on the sport.
“In October, on his 92d birthday, I gave him a [proof] of the book,” Kelly said in the Inquirer interview about Klotz’s birthday. “He deserved that much, for giving me a chance to write it. And we pulled it off together.”
A few years ago, Kelly said he was excited because he heard from someone in Hollywood who took an interest in potentially turning the book into a movie.
Devon Kelly fondly recalled the close friendship that she and her father shared with the Klotzes over the years.
“We always joked about how after initially hearing my dad’s ideas about Red Klotz, I asked, ‘Is that a medical term?’ Little did I know we would become regular visitors and long-time friends of the Klotzes. I was lucky enough to witness the man, in his 90s, playing street basketball with his friends multiple times,” Devon said.
Kelly’s versatility, his talent, his professionalism, biting wit and sense of humor set him apart from the crowd.
Perhaps local sportswriter and broadcaster Tom Williams summed it up best when describing some of the attributes he will fondly remember about Kelly, in a post on Facebook Tuesday.
“We have lost a creative and talented writer and a genuinely nice guy — Tim Kelly, former writer with the Courier-Post and OCNJDaily and successful author, has died after battling cancer. He will be missed by many.”
Funeral arrangements for Tim Kelly have not yet been announced by the family.