The Grand Marshal of Elba
Edward “Ed” Lamar Kelley Jr. is the Elba Grand Marshal of good spirit. The Elba native is a member of Masonic Lodge #170 dedicated to making the town a “thriving entity”.
Kelley brings his light to the people of Elba in many ways. This past Fourth of July, he led the celebrations in downtown Elba by dressing up as Uncle Sam. He greeted people with a smile, gifting popsicles as he paraded through the crowds. “That was fun for me,” Kelley said.
He also set up a watermelon melon stand with the Masons during the event. “Whenever I can do things that I believe can help Elba, I try to do them,” Kelley explained.
In addition to helping out with events, he also brings the spirit of service to the community. Through the Elba Masonic Lodge #170, he and the other members hand write Christmas and other holiday cards for Alabama veterans in nursing homes.
One of his more recent and imaginative efforts is compiling a story in connection with the July Rockin’ the River festival in Elba. For this project, he created a legend about a French pirate who rescues a young native American boy from Spanish enslavement. Then, the boy leads the captain to Elba, where the boy’s mother and the pirate settle down together.
Kelley incorporated local history throughout his story. “We wanted to make him (Captain Francois de Bonaparte) French because, you know, the name Elba has ties to Bonaparte.” He noted that European powers exiled French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte to Elba, a Mediterranean island. The founders of Elba, Alabama, named the town after the island.
He also incorporated Native American language. He used words like “impichi,” meaning mother, and “aatit’at’o,” meaning mermaid.
To help tell the story, Kelley created an elaborate papier-mâché replica of a mermaid to accompany costumed mannequins of Captain de Bonaparte, the pirate, and Nicky, the boy. To make the mermaid, Kelley repurposed a mannequin. He used Styrofoam covered in wood putty and papier-mâché to fashion the mermaid tail. “She took probably two weeks… just that process of gluing,” he stated.
Kelley explained why he involves himself in community efforts saying, “It keeps me busy, and I love the people and Elba.” He added, “Elba is a wonderful place to have grown up. You were everybody’s child in a tight-knit community.”
Although he no longer resides in Elba, his fond memories and support from people in Elba motivate him to remain active here.
“In 2019, I was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the outpouring of support that I got from this town is incredible,” he said. “I live in Enterprise now, but I mean, I can’t explain just how much people reached out, you know, validated this or that, so I try to do anything I can to give back.”
Kelley added, “It’s the people. That’s why I do the things that I do. When one of us has a tragedy, we all have a tragedy, and we celebrate each other’s accomplishments.”