Sean Kelly (1940 – 2022)
What can you say about someone who’s read Finnegan’s Wake—twice—then fearlessly went on to teach that impenetrable tome? A serious Joycean, Sean Kelly was also a laugh-out-loud humorist, magazine editor, author, poet, scriptwriter, playwright, lyricist, radio actor, newspaper writer, ad guy, schoolteacher, and prolific hagiographer. He applied his genius to obscurantism, mysticism, and especially, total irreverence, managing to get a lot of laughs along the way.
Kelly was born in July 1940 on a farm outside Montreal (in the outhouse, according to Kelly) and, as a child prodigy, became a famous quiz show star in Canada. After graduating from the (now-extinct) Loyola College, he dabbled in various careers including writing, “Inside Out”, a bestselling but highly unofficial guide to the Montreal World’s Fair.
He migrated to New York and became the editor of the National Lampoon magazine when it was funny—from 1971 until 1978. In 1973, he co-wrote and co-directed the infamous, off-Broadway mock-rock musical National Lampoon Lemmings. The show became a major hit and launched the careers of John Belushi, Christopher Guest, Chevy Chase, and others. Kelly received the Drama Desk Award for his lyrics. In 1977, he found time to start a magazine, Heavy Metal.
He worked extensively in children’s television, fitting employment for the devoted dad of five children: This included the CBS Young People’s Concerts and Drawing Power, the FOX series Goosebumps and The Magic School Bus, and the PBS series Shining Time Station & Noddy. He hosted a PBS arts show once trying to swim in a suit of armor and occasionally dressed as a beaver. He won an Emmy in 2004 for the early literacy PBS series, Between the Lions.
He has participated in ‘adult television’ – including a brief stint on SNL. Kelly created material for John Candy, George Carlin, Jane Curtin, Robert Klein, Steve Martin, Martin Mull, Gilda Radner, and Jonathan Winters. As a freelance writer, he has been eclectic; published in Bazaar, Benneton’s Colors, Interview, Irish America Magazine, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Playboy, SPY, The Village Voice, and the Quarterly of Joyce Studies, and reviewed children’s books for The New York Times.
He has written (or co-written) many books, only one of which has been translated into Japanese—interestingly his 1999 How to be Irish (Even if You Already Are). Some other books: Saints Preserve Us! (1994), The Birthday Book of Saints (1995), and Who in Hell (1996) all with Rosemary Rogers); Irish Folk and Fairy Tales (editor, 1982); Not the Bible (with Tony Hendra, 1983); Grosseries (with Trish Todd, illustrated by Rick Meyerowitz, 1987); Boom Baby Moon (illustrated by Ron Hauge, 1993), and Bush Photo Oops (with Chris Kelly) 2004.”
Up until two months before his passing, he was busy recording his podcast, Saints Preserve Us! an episode on Celtic Christianity starring Sts. Patrick, Brigid, Gertrude, the Holy Grail, pub crawls, and The Deer’s Cry.
Sean Kelly died on 7/11 at 11:11 AM, surrounded by his sweetheart and wife Trish Todd, five children, and nine grandchildren, and was escorted into paradise by St. Michael the Archangel.
In 2019 Sean Kelly gave us an overview of Irish poets with his piece The Peculiar Adventures of Irish Poets in America.
Stephen J. Fearon (1939 – 2022)
Stephen J. Fearon, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend died peacefully, surrounded by his family on July 6, 2022, at the age of 83, from complications following surgery for colon cancer.
Steve was born in New York City on May 25, 1939, in Harlem Hospital to his Irish immigrant parents, Peter and Sarah “Sally” Fearon. He was a graduate of Cardinal Farley Military Academy, Iona College, and Fordham Law School.
In 1963, he graduated from law school and married the love of his life, Elizabeth “Beth” Shea. They started their life together by moving to Georgia and Alabama where Steve began his legal career working as an FBI agent. In late 1966, he returned to New York City with his growing family and joined the law firm of Condon & Forsyth where he worked for the next 50 years as a trial attorney specializing in the field of Aviation Law. In his long legal career, Steve tried approximately 100 cases involving some of the worst airline disasters in history.
In the later part of his career, he worked as an Adjunct Law Professor of Aviation and Maritime Law at Fordham Law School where he was also the recipient of a lifetime achievement award for excellence in the legal profession. Steve served as President of the New York County Lawyers Association, McInerney Inn of Court, pro bono Counsel and Founding Board Member of the Irish American Writers and Artists Lifetime Director of the Fordham Law Alumni Association and was a lifelong member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
Steve will be greatly missed and long remembered for his kind heart, wonderful sense of humor, prolific letter writing, love of books, and exceptional contribution to the legal community. Anyone who knew him knew of his generosity of spirit and heart.
He is survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Elizabeth Ann Fearon of the Bronx, his son, Stephen J. Fearon, Jr. and his wife Maureen, daughters Sarah Fearon and Elizabeth Fearon Pepperman and her husband Richard, brothers Peter Fearon and Brian Fearon and six adoring grandchildren, Nolan and Owen Fearon, Katherine, Grace, Christopher, and Abigail Pepperman. He is predeceased by his parents, Peter and Sarah Fearon who both died when Steve was a young boy, and by his devoted aunt, Annie Mallon, who raised him and his two brothers in the Inwood section of New York.
Read Stephen Fearon’s review of John Feerick’s book, The Further Shore: A Memoir of Irish Roots and American Promise. ♦