By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Maybe there would be a Kingston without Old Fort Henry.
Maybe there would be a Kingston without a Queen’s University.
Yet would the Kingston sports scene grow into what it is today without Tall Henry?
I knew Tall Henry when he was the general manager for the Bad Boys, a ball team my father coached with the legendary Cliffy Earl. Yes, the team was sponsored by Mel Lastman’s Bad Boy store, which was a very big deal when it came to town.
And “NOOOO BODY!!!!” played better in the Kingston Baseball Association that year than the Bad Boys. Tall Henry had one exalted position at the end of the spectrum, while I was at the other end ... as a bat boy.
Our first baseman Guy White, who had a nickname for everyone, called him Tall Henry, so I called him Tall Henry.
It was months later that I learned his name was Hank Kelly ... and he was tall.
After I moved away to Ottawa and then Toronto, Hank would phone or e-mail to tell me the happenings or an illness of a former teammate, high school chum. And then one night he called with news that I had been elected to the Kingston and District Hall of Fame, joining my father ... the athlete.
So, it gives me great pleasure to write about Tall Henry ...
From helping with the Bad Boys at the Cricket Field, to coaching bantam in Kingscourt to seeing the need for a midget league in the city ... The Kingscourt Little League at the time covered age groups type, peewee and bantam only. So the midget loop was a natural next step.
And we should point out he formed this league in 1964 when he was at the wise old age of 21. I am not sure what you were doing when you were 21 but it wasn’t landing sponsors, booking fields, ordering uniforms and finding a place for four or five rosters of teenagers to spend their summer nights. And then three years later expanded it to juvenile ball before it merged with Kingscourt.
At the Memorial Centre and other arenas Tall Henry could be found as the manager of the Hawks, coached by Roy Partridge or officiating hockey for 30 years. I remember being at the Whig-Standard and writing how Kingston had sent someone to the World Hockey Association -- Tall Henry had been hired by the Cleveland Crusaders. Before and after the WHA Tall Henry helped organize the officials in Kingston and Ottawa and wrote ‘The Art of Officiating Hockey’ manual.
And in basketball he coached in the YMCA Biddy League and a Knights of Columbus team.
And in football he was a coach at Loyalist and Regi.
He was a man for all seasons and he was everywhere on Kingston courts, fields, diamonds and rinks.
Tall Henry even earned the Correctional Services of Canada volunteer award -- non inmate division.
He was a Red Cross volunteer during the Kingston Ice Storm (1998) and during the Kosovar War Refugee Evacuation transition camp at Canadian Forces Base Kingston in 1999.
They had it right in 1961 and 1962 at Queen Elizabeth when he won the school’s top awards.
Over the years he has been honoured by many groups like the referee’s associations and others.
Now after being an architect of Kingston minor ball and minor hockey scenes, the city honoured him with induction into the Kingston and District Hall of Fame.