Donaldson N. Kelly, 87, three-sport star, one of Maryland's 50 greatest athletes

June 26, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Donaldson Naylor Kelly, a three-sport athlete recently recognized as one of Maryland's 50 greatest players of the last century, died of Alzheimer's disease Friday at the Magnolia Hall nursing home in Chestertown. He was 87.

When Sports Illustrated magazine listed the greatest sports figures of the century from Maryland last year, it ranked Mr. Kelly No. 28 for helping lead the Johns Hopkins University lacrosse team to national titles in 1932, 1933 and 1934.

On a list that included Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken Jr. and Sugar Ray Leonard, "just being in the same ballgame was pretty good," said Deborah Eaton of Baltimore, one of Mr. Kelly's five daughters. "He was an outstanding athlete all his life."

But it wasn't just lacrosse in which Mr. Kelly displayed his athletic prowess.

The Baltimore native captained three teams - football, basketball and lacrosse - during his years at Friends School, where he graduated cum laude in 1930. His Friends lacrosse teams of 1928 and 1929 were local scholastic champions.

As a premed major at Johns Hopkins, Mr. Kelly earned 11 letters in three sports, in an era when hometown fans cheered on college and high school teams with the same fervor accorded professional athletes today.

On the lacrosse field, Mr. Kelly distinguished himself as a close attack player who could catch and shoot with either hand and generally was considered one of Hopkins' best stickmen. He was named to the All-American lacrosse team four straight years.

During an intense back-and-forth game against the University of Maryland, Mr. Kelly scored the final two goals that sent Hopkins to Los Angeles to represent the United States in the 1932 Olympics.

"There were lots of people on the '32 and '33 Hopkins teams that took them to the championships, but it was dad's dip-dodge that landed them the Olympic team," said Rebecca Taylor of Chestertown, another of his daughters.

In the 1932 Olympics, Mr. Kelly scored six goals against the Canadians in a three-game series, which the U.S. team won.

On the basketball court, Mr. Kelly was equally proficient at forward and guard and was among the state's leading scorers at Hopkins.

Although basketball and lacrosse were his best sports, Mr. Kelly also turned in impressive efforts on the gridiron as quarterback of the Blue Jays football team. He was described as an adept passer and receiver and a clever runner.

He was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, served as treasurer and president of his class and was elected president of the Hopkins circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society.

After his 1934 graduation from the Homewood campus, Mr. Kelly planned to move his studies across town to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

"But he couldn't go because there was no money," recalled Caleb R. Kelly Jr., 89, of Claiborne, Mr. Kelly's older brother by 23 months. "When we got out of college, we just couldn't find jobs."

In 1935, Mr. Kelly helped form the Baltimore Athletic Club lacrosse team and played for it for six years. In 1936, he returned to Friends as an assistant football coach and head coach of lacrosse and basketball.

On July 11, 1942, he married Gay Page DuBois. She died in 1982.

Mr. Kelly unsuccessfully tried to join the Navy during World War II. He spent the war years working six days a week at the Glenn L. Martin aircraft factory in Middle River.

He eventually landed a job with General Motors, which led Mr. Kelly to Chestertown, where he moved his family in 1952. He became owner and president of Don Kelly Chevrolet and Buick.

Even with the demands of running his dealership and raising a family, Mr. Kelly found time for his favorite sport, serving for 20 years as coach of Washington College's lacrosse team.

In 1966, his 10th season there, Mr. Kelly led the Shoremen to a fourth straight division crown, losing only to powerhouses Navy and Hopkins, to rank 10th in the country among all lacrosse-playing colleges. In the midst of his reign, he was named Coach of the Year in lacrosse by his peers.

He retired from the dealership and coaching in 1977.

"I don't know of anybody else in Maryland who was as great an athlete in all the sports my brother was," said Caleb Kelly. " My brother was captain of three sports and he played golf and tennis on the side. He was just an all-around athlete."

Johns Hopkins officials agreed, granting Mr. Kelly the university's highest athletic honor in October 1995 with induction into its Athletic Hall of Fame.

After Mr. Kelly's father died in 1923, his mother, Ethel Adams Naylor, raised her two sons in a $75-a-month two-bedroom apartment on Bolton Street.

Mr. Kelly and his brother counted Alger Hiss, later to be prosecuted as a Communist spy, and Garry Moore, later a famous television game and variety show host, among their boyhood basketball buddies.

A lifelong music lover, Mr. Kelly enjoyed a Saturday ritual of listening to radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.

Memorial services will be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the Emanuel Episcopal Church in Chestertown.

Mr. Kelly is also survived by his second wife, Delphine; three other daughters, Page Brenner and Frances Kelly of Baltimore and Kathleen Reeder of Grantsville; and 11 grandchildren.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.