Monday 19 March 2018

Obituary: Des Kelly

The famous 'carpet man' started a successful business - but only found happiness helping the homeless

FAITH: Des Kelly
FAITH: Des Kelly

Des Kelly, who died last week, was known as the "carpet man" to a generation of Dubliners, thanks to the catchy ad that aired on virtually every radio station back in the day. His name was synonymous with carpets, but he turned the store he founded in Dublin in the 1960s into a successful chain of home furnishing outlets in Dublin, Meath and Kildare.

Mr Kelly died, aged 75, in the early hours of last Thursday, at his home in Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Born in 1941, Mr Kelly was raised in Dublin's north inner city. He started dealing in second-hand carpets in the 1960s and eventually built up Des Kelly Interiors, which now operates 13 shops and employs around 100 staff. At the height of the economic boom, his company was making profits of €2m. He was known for his carpets, but less well-known was his deep religious faith and his work with homeless charities in Dublin. When other shops opened their doors for Sunday shopping, Mr Kelly insisted on keeping his shut.

In an interview with Spirit FM two years ago, Mr Kelly talked about joining the Legion of Mary in 1999, and how that led to his work with the Morning Star and Regina Coeili hostels, which are run by the Legion.

He described how he would go in a couple of times and a week and pitch in. "You would clean up, make beds, sweep the floors, do the cooking. Like a team effort, everyone pulls together," he said.

"My faith has escalated since I joined the Legion," he said. "I got closer to God. I realised how the other side lives. I am really satisfied now, more than I ever was in life. It's just a great place to be and you are giving something back."

Des Kelly was also a committed family man. He had eight children with his wife, Youlanda who died in 2013.

His other passion was football. He sponsored Bohemian FC. The club paid tribute to him in a statement: "Des had an extremely close relationship with the club for many years and gave us incredible backing as main sponsor for nearly a decade. Everyone at Bohs would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family."

The broadcaster and musician Ronan Johnston posted on Twitter: "RIP Des Kelly. Man had a kind of quiet holiness about him. And the first to sponsor my morning show on Spirit."

Trevor Welch, the football commentator with TV3, tweeted that Mr Kelly was "a colossus of a man. A Bohemians man true and true. Will be sadly missed by all at Dalymount."

Mr Kelly is survived by his eight children: Matthew, Desmond, Denise, Gregory, Gillian, Youlanda, Orlando and Gerardo.

A funeral service will be held in the Holy Trinity Church in Ratoath at midday on Monday.

Sunday Independent

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