Earl A. Shelsby Jr., 67, Sun outdoors writer, editor at magazines

November 27, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Earl A. Shelsby Jr., an outdoors writer and editor and former columnist for The Sun, died Saturday of lung cancer at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Seattle. He was 67 and lived in Catonsville until last year.

His Outdoor Living column appeared in The Sun from 1960 until 1974, when Mr. Shelsby left to write for and edit the National Rifle Association's American Hunter magazine in Washington, D.C.

For the past five years, he was editor of Outdoors.net, an online hunting and fishing magazine. He also wrote for Fishing in Maryland, an annual publication.

"He was the fellow who always looked out for the little guy who couldn't catch fish. He was a hard-luck guy," said longtime outdoors writer Bill Burton, a former columnist for the Baltimore Sun newspapers from Riviera Beach. "He made the mistakes all of us make. It endeared him to his readers. They knew he knew where they came from."

"Earl was a guy who loved the outdoors," said Joe Reynolds of Ocean Pines, a friend of Mr. Shelsby. "Hunting and fishing were his passion. He probably knew as much about hunting and fishing in Maryland as anyone ever has -- from Ocean City to Deep Creek Lake."

Mr. Reynolds added, "He was constantly in the field. The readers loved him because they knew he was writing of his trips from firsthand experience and not reporting from what someone else had told him."

Born in Baltimore and raised in Linthicum, Mr. Shelsby was a graduate of Glen Burnie High School. After a stint as an usher at New Glen Theater in Glen Burnie, he joined The Sun as a copy boy when he was 18.

After a year at the newspaper, Mr. Shelsby joined the Marine Corps. He was trained as a supply sergeant, but when a superior realized he could type, he became the company clerk. He served in Japan as a member of the United Nations Far East Forces.

He rejoined the paper as head copy boy in February 1956 and was promoted to maritime reporter that year.

"Earl was a good worker -- very thorough in his reporting -- who had a good sense of humor," said Helen Delich Bentley, former Maryland congresswoman who was then maritime editor for The Sun. "He was pleasant to be around."

Mr. Shelsby studied at the University of Baltimore, where he earned a degree in marketing in 1959.

He moved to the sports staff and covered high school and college athletics, and had aspirations of becoming a baseball reporter. When he realized there were too many senior reporters ahead of him, Mr. Shelsby suggested an outdoors column -- which he wrote in addition to other duties at the paper.

In 1968, he received the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Communicator of the Year Award for his efforts to reduce littering.

At the NRA, he became associate editor and later managing editor of American Hunter.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 8 at Christ Memorial Presbyterian Church, 6410 Amherst Ave., Columbia.

He is survived by three daughters, Mary Shelsby of Rochester, N.Y., Dianne Wiley of Hollywood, Fla., and Norma Myers of Seattle; four brothers, Gilbert F. Shelsby of Baltimore, Theodore F. Shelsby of Phoenix, Charles Shelsby of East Brunswick, N.J., and Richard Shelsby of Ellicott City; two sisters, Carolyn Hall of Glen Burnie and Cecelia Brandt of Baltimore; and five grandchildren.

A son, Earl A. Shelsby III, died in 1983. His marriage to A. Henrietta Kelly ended in divorce.

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