Friday, January 8, 1999

BY JOANNE DITMER

DENVER POST STAFF WRITER

Bernard Kelly, a Denver Post staff writer and editor for 28 years, died Thursday morning at Centura Porter Adventist Hospital after a short illness. He was 93.

Kelly was a newspaperman of the old school; he could write about anything and make it interesting, had an eternal curiosity, and other reporters respected him as "the best" rewrite man. He was a tough newspaper reporter and a gentle and kind person, one of those rare individuals beloved by co-workers for his professional skills and his unfailing good humor and enthusiasm.

Born Sept. 1, 1905, in Pueblo, he graduated from Central High School, where he worked on the school newspaper. He attended Pueblo Junior College - where he wrote the words and music to the school song - and the University of Colorado.

Fascinated by writing, he enrolled in a night school short-story writing class - tuition 50 cents a semester - and began to write countless stories, and collect an equal number of rejection slips, which he pasted in a scrapbook.

Success came when Esquire Magazine bought a story in 1937, and that led to a job on The Pueblo Chieftain.

He was a jazz musician, playing tenor banjo, string bass, guitar, and piano with various dance bands; he held two musicians' union cards. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942-46, serving at Camp Shanks, N.Y., and was discharged as a major.

Kelly came to The Denver Post in 1947, working on the city desk before becoming Empire Magazine assistant editor in 1957. Trains, streetcars, Sherlock Holmes, ghastly crimes, ghosts, and haunted houses were his special interests, but he could deftly file a story on any subject.

The Empire Magazine staff was a crew of experienced journalists who shared a zany sense of the absurd and a predisposition to finely crafted, often deeply convoluted pranks on each other. They were never cruel, but were thorough, and Kelly, with his open and trusting personality, was often an unwitting accomplice or target, thoroughly amused when he discovered the efforts.

Bill Hosokawa, Empire editor at that time, said Kelly was a reliable reporter who could take any assignment and come back with a good story, on time. Once he had Kelly grow his beard for three or four days, then go "on the streets" as a homeless person.

"He didn't complain, and wrote a really penetrating story. He was a delight to work with," Hosokawa declared.

Kelly retired in 1975; The Post was going through layoffs, and when it came down to younger reporters having to leave, he decided that he, at 70, would retire to give his place to a "youngster." Empire's farewell to Kelly noted: "At least once in everyone's life comes a person of great respect, warmth, patience, comfort, help and understanding - a real human being you enjoy being with and are proud to know ... for us, Bernard Kelly."

His first day of retirement, he got up as usual, dressed as if going to work, and sat down at his typewriter to continue writing - now freelance. He sold to many publications, and his articles continued to appear in Empire into 1981.

He was a confirmed bachelor until he was 75, when he met and married Margaret Halloran, who survives him.

A memorial mass will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Mother of God Catholic Church, Speer Boulevard and Logan Street. There was cremation, with interment at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

All content © 1999 THE DENVER POST and may not be republished without permission.


FOND MEMORIES

Joanne Ditmer's summary of the life of Bernard Kelly ("Ex-Post writer Kelly dies at age 93," Jan. 8) is "write on."

Sixty years ago, I was in a music harmony class at Pueblo Junior College with Bernard.

The professor, as I recall, was Max Caplan. Then 34, Bernard blended easily with us younger folks, who benefited from his knowledge of music. He played bass fiddle with Pueblo's well-known Charley Quaranta orchestra and - further delving into my memories - wrote for Pueblo's then evening paper, the Star-Journal.

His company was a pleasure.

L.W. ELIAS, Arvada, Colorado