This image came to me in a mystery lot of vintage photographs from Spakeasachild on Etsy. Elly Kelly, born Eleanor Hoffman in 1915, was a well-known radio personality in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She and her husband, Jack, operated a Christian radio station, WRFW, out of their home.
After graduating Hokah high school in Hokah, Minnesota, Elly went on to cosmetology school in Minneapolis. In 1935, while employed as a beautician in LaCrosse, Wisconsin she met Jack Kelly, an announcer working in a radio studio across the street from the hair salon. It was love at first sight! The two married in 1940 and had three children; John, Tom, and Margaret.
In addition to starring in WRFW’s Kelly’s Kupboard, the family’s long-running radio breakfast show, Elly hosted a variety of other programs, including Club Calendar and Homemaker’s Tips.
As is often the case when researching women, I unearthed lots of little details about Elly’s husband, but not so much about her. Jack was honored in 1973 with a “This is Your Life Jack Kelly” celebration and when Jack went into semi-retirement in 1977, the Eau Claire newspaper ran a feature article. As Jack shared stories, Elly was quoted as jokingly saying, “You just have to sign Jack off when you want him to stop. When I try to shut Jack off, he says ‘Listen, talking is my business’, and I shut up.” Although this indeed may have been a wife just ‘poking a little fun’ at her husband, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness when I read it, imagining a woman living in the shadow of her husband’s spotlight.
May 24, 1977 ~ Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, WI
Later in life, Elly was employed in the deli and bakery at the Consumers Co-op and Cassidy’s Super Store. She lived to be 90 and is buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery beside Jack who passed in 1984.
Update ~ I’m happy to report that this photograph has been united with the family, specifically Elly’s daughter Margaret.
Find A Grave
Various articles from the Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, WI ~ Dec. 9, 1977 (Elly’s quote)