London woman enjoys outdoor pursuits
Story by Jane Beathard
Photos courtesy of Maxine Kelly
They say age is just a number. And for Madison County resident Maxine Kelly, that saying is most true.
At age 91, Kelly is an enthusiastic outdoors woman who pursues white-tailed deer each fall, accompanied by a small band of family members.
“It is just fun to get together,” she said. “We don’t get to do it that often.”
Shotgun in hand, she tramps the hills of southeast Ohio’s Gallia County — generally with brother Larry Kelly, 75, nephew Roy Kelly, and his friend Rick Hughes.
The 2020 deer-gun season was a bit of a disappointment for them all due to rain, wind and a healthy dose of snow on the opening days.
“I saw three deer on Sunday as they crossed the road about 50 yards away,” she said. “Those were the only ones I saw.”
She loves the camaraderie of the hunting cabin — a tiny, dilapidated structure off a gravel road that has been her family’s seasonal headquarters every November for 30 years. Nephew Roy found the unoccupied house years ago and the Kellys tried unsuccessfully to buy it once.
“Too many names on the deed and none of them got along,” Kelly lamented.
Today the cabin is often infested with mice and wasps and has a sagging tin roof. But it’s still a good place to gather, savor the woods and reminisce about past hunts and the good times they brought.
Outside of deer-gun season, “Aunt Max” as the nephews call Kelly, lives alone in a tidy cottage on a side street in London.
Her first hunt was at age 12 with her father who taught her to master a .410 shotgun. In those days, London was a much smaller town and she often pursued rabbits and pheasants along the railroad tracks and in what is now the city’s “suburbs.”
Back then, Ohio’s natural landscape featured mostly rabbits, squirrels and pheasants. That changed over the years thanks to state wildlife restoration projects. Now Kelly also encounters wild turkey and whitetails in the woods.
A Marine veteran, she served three years during the Korean War in a California encampment.
She worked a third shift while in the military, often drawing well-known movie and TV personalities to stay awake during the wee hours. Those old sketches are now tucked away in a box in London and provide a glimpse of Hollywood as it was in the 1950s and ‘60s.
She mustered out and remained in California for a few years before returning to Ohio to work in a Springfield meat packing company for $1 an hour.
“I sliced bacon in a cold room with grease all over,” she laughed.
She eventually moved up to a $3 per hour job at the former Westinghouse appliance factory on Columbus’ west side.
Kelly was at Westinghouse 12 years before her job was shipped to Mexico — an early harbinger of what was to come in Industrial America. She retired at 62.
While her life has been varied, the outdoors always played a big role.
Over the years she hunted moose in Alaska, pheasant in Iowa and deer in Colorado. She fished, too, and once hooked a 52-pound king salmon during an Alaskan camping trip.
But white-tailed deer remain her favorite prey. The biggest one she ever harvested was an eight-pointer, taken near Irwin in Union County.
And at 91 she has no intention of giving up the outdoor life anytime soon.
“I will keep on hunting,” she said. “Or, at least I will try.”