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George P. Kell, a retired advertising agency copy director and outdoorsman, dies

George P. Kell, a retired advertising agency copy director who earlier held posts with Project HOPE and a Washington, D.C., hospital, died March 16 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at St. Francis Center, a Darby, Pa., nursing home.

The former Federal Hill resident was 80.

George Philip Kell, the son of Lewis Earl Kell, a Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding Corp. Sparrows Point foreman, and Irma R. Kell, a Baltimore County public schools teacher and administrator, was born at his grandmother’s home on Dorsey Avenue in Essex.

He was raised in homes on Magnolia Terrace and Mace Avenue in Essex, and was a 1956 graduate of the Polytechnic Institute, where he played lacrosse and football.

Mr. Kell attended St. John’s College in Annapolis from 1956 until 1961, and studied the next year at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He married Mary Frances McCutchan in 1962 and was on the faculty of the old Brooklyn Park High School from 1962 until 1963, where he taught math.

The couple lived in Annapolis and then moved to Washington, D.C., in 1963 when Mr. Kell began working for Project HOPE, which used a former U.S. Navy hospital ship to treat patients around the world while at the same time teaching doctors and nurses and other medical staff.

In 1966, Mr. Kell was the hospital administrator for the ship’s nine-month goodwill visit to Nicaragua. “During one goodwill baseball game between a ragtag team of the ship’s staff and a local minor league team, he drew a crowd to the stadium by holding the Chinandega Tigers scoreless for five innings with his pitching — until his arm gave out,” a daughter, Amanda Kell, a Baltimore Sun editor, wrote in a biographical profile of her father.

Mr. Kell left Project HOPE in 1968 when he joined the staff of the old Doctors Hospital as an assistant administrator, and was later promoted to vice president of Washington Medical Center Inc., the hospital’s parent corporation.

He resided in Reston, Va., from 1969 to 1996, and after the hospital closed in 1979, he taught himself business writing and helped establish Twain Associates in Reston, to “sell the services of himself and his partners,” wrote his daughter, a resident of Baltimore’s Lake Evesham neighborhood.

Mr. Kell, who was the author of marketing materials and annual reports for national law firms and accounting companies, left Twain Associates in 1986 when he joined the staff of Greenfield/Belser. The Washington firm was a graphic design firm and a pioneer in the field of legal advertising and marketing.

For more than two decades until retiring in 2006, Mr. Kell was copy director and “drew on his classical education at St. John’s, his years of teaching and freelancing, and his strong research, writing, editing and coaching skills to work with clients and staff,” Ms. Kell wrote.

“He played a central role in the firm’s pioneering law firm and legal industry marketing — today a multibillion-dollar market,” said Burkey Belser, the firm’s managing partner. “He was not only a brilliant writer, but an even better editor,” and a “respected and a supremely knowledgeable man.”

A man of broad cultural and intellectual interests, Mr. Kell collected books and records, attended the symphony, opera and theater, and was seldom seen without a book and an ever-present copy of his beloved New Yorker.

“I remember him charging up the stairs of our townhouse in Reston, saying, ‘The child who has my ‘Revolver’ album is in trouble,’” Ms. Kell said.

“There was no area of interest I can recall where he could not contribute meaningfully to the conversation and, thus, guide the thinking of the firm’s work — all calmly and in good humor,” Mr. Belser said.

Mr. Kell moved to Federal Hill in 1996, and even after he retired, continued to write for Greenfield/Belser.

A gourmet cook who liked cooking to music, Mr. Kell enjoyed collecting kitchen implements and preparing food for his family.

Mr. Kell’s interest in food also resulted in his becoming the major investor in Neopol Savory and Smokery, which was established by Barbara Lahnstein, and her son, Dorian Brown, the master smoker, and opened in 2003 in a renovated Belvedere Square.

“While work was his hobby, he continued to like sports such as tennis and kayaking. He liked kayaking around the harbor, the Baja, and northern California,” his daughter said. “He also liked hiking in Shenandoah National Park.”

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1995, and in 2006 he married Carol Rogers Field, who is a senior editor at Springer Nature in Philadelphia. Since 2011, the couple resided in Philadelphia.

A memorial service for Mr. Kell will be held at 1 p.m. June 8 at McDowell Hall on the campus of St. John’s College, 60 College Ave., Annapolis.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Matthew Hall Kell of Petaluma, Calif.; another daughter, Selina Ruth Kell of Holyoke, Mass.; three stepsons, Alex Field of Raleigh, N.C., and Samuel Field and Walker Field, both of Philadelphia; and three grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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