Gerald "Gerry" Kelly, a onetime soccer writer for The Evening Sun who went on to become a much-loved bartender at a handful of area bars, most notably Jerry D's on Harford Road, died of heart failure Oct. 13 at his home in Parkville. He was 63.
"Gerry was a true expert regarding the sport of soccer," said Larry Harris, a former Evening Sun assistant sports editor. "He was one of the most loved and entertaining reporters we ever had at The Evening Sun."
Added his former editor, Bill Tanton, "He covered it in a way that none of the rest of us could."
Once he left journalism in the early 1980s, Mr. Kelly spent many years as a bartender, at Kavanagh's, Swallow in the Hallow and, most notably, Jerry D's in Parkville.
"He was one very, very liked fellow in the Baltimore nightlife after he left the newspaper," Mr. Harris said. "He was quite the man about town."
A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Mr. Kelly arrived in the U.S. with his parents and younger sister, Christina, in 1963 at age 13. He remained fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage throughout his life, and quickly took up the cause of soccer in his adopted land. He would often accompany his father, John, on trips to area schools to promote soccer in a town where the Orioles and Colts dominated.
"It just spread like wildfire," said his sister, Christina Cieslik — especially when professional soccer hit town with the arrival of the Baltimore Bays in 1967.
Growing up on Old York Road near Memorial Stadium, Mr. Kelly graduated from Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, where he played soccer and learned printing. While working as a copy boy at The Evening Sun, he took classes at what is now Towson University, eventually earning a degree in journalism.
Mr. Kelly began covering soccer in the early 1970s and was the primary writer when the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team arrived in 1980. He continued covering the Blast until leaving the paper.
"He knew that sport from the old country," Mr. Tanton said. That was lucky for the paper, he added, as "we didn't have anybody else who had any familiarity with soccer."
Mr. Kelly also covered boxing for The Evening Sun, including several early bouts in the career of Maryland's Sugar Ray Leonard.
"Gerry was a good friend during those wonder years of Evening Sun fellowship," said Tom Osborne, a former Evening Sun colleague who retired from The Baltimore Sun several years ago.
Mr. Kelly, who had earned the nickname of "Beer Can Kelly," and several other newsroom colleagues took a weekend camping several times a year to the Eastern Shore.
"I remember those fishing and hunting trips, and I use the term loosely because seldom did anyone really hunt or fish," said Mr. Osborne. "The Pocomoke River will never be the same."
After leaving The Evening Sun in the early 1980s, Mr. Kelly began his second career as a bartender. For well over a decade, he was a fixture at Jerry D's.
"He was one of the funniest guys I ever met," said Carl Nelson, who took over ownership of Jerry D's in 2004. "He had a fantastic personality and a great intellect. Any time you mentioned Gerry Kelly, you had a smile on your face."
Whenever Mr. Osborne drove down from Pennsylvania to visit his daughter in Essex, he'd drop into Jerry D's.
"We would stop at Jerry D's for lunch, and I remember how Beer Can's face would light up at yet another chance to talk about the good old days at The Evening Sun," said Mr. Osborne.
Mr. Kelly left Jerry D's in 2011.
"Gerry was a fine storyteller, and he could tell stories like he mixed good drinks. He was a great storyteller, like all great bartenders. He was a friendly and very popular guy," said Ernest F. Imhoff, a retired Evening Sun and Baltimore Sun editor.
"I had an interest in Scotland, and I used to talk to him about its hills, its domination by the English and even 'Scotland the Brave,' " recalled Mr. Imhoff. "Gerry's Celtic heritage was very important to him. Even though soccer was his passion, I was more interested in his love for his homeland."
"He was just one helluva guy," Mr. Harris said.
A memorial gathering is scheduled for 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Parkview Funeral Home, 7527 Harford Road.
Mr. Kelly is survived by his sister and father, who live in Westminster.
Baltimore Sun reporter Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun