Denwood Norris Kelly, 88, president of Blue Shield of Md., noted philatelist

October 23, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Denwood Norris Kelly, a former president of Blue Shield of Maryland and noted philatelist and paper money expert, died of pneumonia Friday at Keswick Multi-Care Center. He was 88 and lived in the Mays Chapel section of Baltimore County.

Mr. Kelly, a Baltimore native, began his career in 1933 in general real estate and insurance, specializing in property management and appraising.

In 1953, he went to work in the health insurance field, joining Tidewater Hospital Service Association, the Blue Cross Plan in Norfolk, Va.

He was executive director of the plan when he returned to Baltimore in 1957 as assistant director of Maryland Blue Cross and Blue Shield. He was elected president in 1963, and later chief executive officer, of Blue Shield of Maryland, holding the latter position until retiring in 1978.

During Mr. Kelly's tenure, the health care system grew from 780,000 members to 1.5 million, and in benefits from $11.5 million to $90 million. He also served on the board of the National Association of Blue Shield Plans from 1969 to 1973.

"He was one of the finest individuals I've ever known. He had integrity and was committed to the job. He gave Blue Shield everything he had," said Thomas H. Sherlock, a retired president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, and a friend for 43 years.

"He was a quiet and gentle person, and everyone liked him," Mr. Sherlock said. "If there was a problem, you could sit down with him, discuss and resolve it, and still remain friends. That's why the man stands out."

Mr. Kelly was born and spent his early years on Mount Vernon Place before moving to Catonsville, where he graduated from high school. He attended the Johns Hopkins University.

He served in naval intelligence during World War II and the Korean War, and saw action during the D-Day landings in France in 1944. He was discharged from the Navy in 1953 but remained active in the Naval Reserve until being discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander in 1963.

Mr. Kelly's interest in stamps began when an older cousin gave him a small collection meant to entertain a 7-year-old recuperating from an illness. It turned into a lifelong passion.

For many years, he specialized in Latin America and 19th-century private posts of the world and wrote extensively about the subject. He also was interested in stamps issued for mail carried privately by shipping companies and in 1950 co-wrote The Danube Steam Navigation Company, with Erik F. Hurt of England.

In 1971, he wrote two lengthy articles for The Collectors Club Philatelist discussing the history of private posts and carrier services that operated in Baltimore from 1844 to 1861.

He also collected and studied Maryland paper money and for 22 years, until his death, was a volunteer consultant in philately and lotteries at the Maryland Historical Society.

In 1996, he and Stuart R. Bruchey, Armand M. Shank Jr. and Thomas S. Gordon co-wrote Money and Banking in Maryland, an illustrated work about paper currency issued from 1784 to 1865 by Maryland banks, merchants and transportation companies such as Adams Express. He edited Maryland Postal History Catalogue in the 1970s.

He was a member of the Baltimore Philatelic Society and a fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society in London. He also was a member of the Hopkins Club, the Center Club and St. George's Society.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where Mr. Kelly was a member.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Ellen L. Gammie; and two daughters, Ellen Lee Kelly of Towson and Stuart K. Trinkle of Roanoke, Va.

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