Fannie R. Kelly, 63, director of rec center on Baltimore's east side

November 22, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Fannie R. Kelly, who in her 25 years as a recreation center leader and director rallied her East Baltimore neighborhood, died of a stroke Nov. 15 at Union Memorial Hospital. The Park Heights resident was 63.

Born Fannie Rebecca Kenton in Towson, where she was raised, she was a 1958 graduate of Carver High School in Baltimore County and earned a degree in early childhood education at what was then Bowie State Teachers College.

After teaching briefly in the Baltimore County public school system, she became a Fort Worthington Center staff member for the city's Department of Recreation and Parks. She later was named director of the recreation center in the 2700 block of E. Hoffman St., a position she held until 1994.

"She was tough but had the biggest heart in the world. She was short in stature but was sharp and very creative. She had a sense of humor you would not believe," said Jeannette Sykes-Atkins, a co-worker and friend who lives in Baltimore. "She knew all the officials and saw to it her center and neighborhood was not overlooked."

Colleagues said she coordinated food and toy drives to meet the needs of homeless and underprivileged people. She befriended neighborhood grocers and got them to donate to a food program for the needy. She held fish fries on Fridays, staged street carnivals and coordinated food basket distribution at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"She was a diligent director and worked with all branches of the city government," said Douglas B. Brady Jr., retired district supervisor of the city parks department. "She got along with the school alongside the rec center. She took hard-core youths who attended her center and made them into law-abiding citizens who came to believe in the benefits of education and wholesome recreation."

She also helped establish a neighborhood day care center.

"She didn't believe in leaving anyone behind," said her niece, Nina Carr of Randallstown. "She had a remarkably big heart. She didn't know the meaning of the word no. She ran her recreation center like a community center, and she taught the children the need to give back."

In the summer, she ran a Fun Camp and arranged trips to Hershey Park and Kings Dominion.

"There was a fee, but if the child had no money, she made sure they went along with the group," said her daughter, Jeanine T. Kelly, a teacher's assistant of Baltimore. "And they came home with the same treats and souvenirs."

She stepped down at Fort Worthington in 1994 because of poor health and retired five years later. At that time, she was co-director of the Tench Tilghman Recreation Center at Patterson Park Avenue and McElderry Street.

In 1968, she married Jerome Kelly, who owns a moving business. He survives her.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. today at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 816 York Road, Towson, where she was a member.

In addition to her husband and daughter, survivors include an adopted son, George Russell of Baltimore; two brothers, Leroy Kenton and Edward Kenton, both of Baltimore; and three sisters, Elizabeth Williams of White Marsh, Martina Kenton of Towson and Bernice Carr of Randallstown.

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