Obituaries » Edward Laning Kelly


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June 2017

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Edward Laning Kelly passed away in June 2017 after a brave battle with Parkinson's disease. He passed peacefully at home, among family, to the sound of Christian music and recited Psalms. He had grown very fond of Jesus, and he was looking forward to meeting Him in person. At Ed's request, there were no services.

"Ed" grew up in Rockford, Ill. After graduating from the University of Illinois, he enlisted in the Army where he held the rank of First Lieutenant - Field Artillery. When his tour of duty was about to expire, he was asked to re-enlist and offered a promotion. Ed decided instead to pursue his two favorite subjects: politics and art. He accomplished this by working in Washington, D.C., as a Senator's aide, while drawing political cartoons on the side.

Ed inherited a great artistic talent from his "American Master" uncle Edward Laning, the famous muralist whose works have been displayed at the Smithsonian, the Carnegie Institute and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and can currently be viewed at locations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Richmond Professional Institute, Ellis Island, the Ogden Railway Station and the New York Public Library.

With Ed's artistic talent and razor-sharp wit, his political cartoons soon caught the attention of the editors of the Las Vegas Review Journal. The newspaper offered him a job over the phone. They waived the interview process. Ed accepted the job and moved his family to Las Vegas.

After winning several awards for his political cartoons, Ed and his friend Rob Reber opened Kelly & Reber Advertising, which became Nevada's largest ad agency. In addition to advertising for major hotel-casinos (such as Caesar's Palace, Desert Inn, Golden Nugget and Horseshoe), and acting as a campaign manager for politicians such as Governor Paul Laxalt, for a decade Kelly and Reber were in charge of the national advertising for the city of Las Vegas (a highly sought-after account). Their "Las Vegas" magazine ads and billboards won a number of American Advertising Awards. The "ADDYS" awards are the advertising industry's largest and most prestigious competitions.

Ed's successful advertising career enabled him to enjoy a prosperous life; he lived in a mansion, traveled the world and was married three times to stunningly beautiful women. His first wife was a teacher who held a master's degree. His second wife had been Miss Teenage America and his third wife was a successful realtor.

Ed retired to Hawaii in 1987, and then moved to Lake Isabella in 2003. He made numerous good friends in Lake Isabella; it seems that every time we go to town we run into people who cared deeply for Dad and are anxious to talk about him... always in the most complementary ways. Ed lived a simple, quiet retirement... yet still managed to have a profound impact on so many people!
Ed led a fascinating life and was an entertaining and colorful story-teller. He met and worked with many famous people, such as Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes and Elvis. He enjoyed talking about the time he "had a beer" with Ernest Hemingway, and one of the highlights of his life was meeting all three Kennedy brothers. Spending an afternoon talking with Ed was a lot like listening to excerpts from books like "the Godfather" (but better, because Ed's stories were true.)

Edward Kelly was truly unique and gifted in many ways. Not only was he a talented artist and a brilliant man, he also had an absolutely hilarious sense of humor. He was a loving father and caring friend who often quietly helped strangers in need. He will be greatly missed.
Ed is survived by his son Tom, daughter Carole, son-in-law Walter, sister-in-law Anne, grandson Benjamin Edward and grandson Kevin, and granddaughter Billie.