herald

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Only family and friends knew 'Carpet Man' Des was secretly helping homeless

The late carpet entrepreneur Des Kelly
The late carpet entrepreneur Des Kelly

The late Des Kelly was deeply involved in volunteering for a homeless charity in Dublin, which only his family and close friends knew about during his lifetime.

Known as 'The Carpet Man', Mr Kelly (75) passed away suddenly in the early hours of yesterday at his home in Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Volunteering to help the homeless was his "one great passion" in recent years, according to friends.

Long-time pal and work colleague Paul O'Farrell, an accountant with the family business, explained Mr Kelly felt blessed to have been so successful and always wanted to give back.

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He volunteered with the Morning Star Hostel for the homeless on North Brunswick Street, but kept the work below the radar during his life.

"It's probably a side of him that is the least well known, but he was working with the Morning Star Hostel for many, many years.

"Des always cared deeply about homelessness, long before the current crisis that we're in and the current media attention," Mr O'Farrell said.

"He felt he had a good life and was blessed by all the success he had. He wanted to give back.

"He worked on a very hands-on basis. He would go down and dish out food, or help with organising the finances, if that's what was needed.

"It's not something he talked about that much, though his close friends would have known about it," Mr O'Farrell explained.

Mr Kelly started dealing in second-hand carpets in the 1960s and eventually built up Des Kelly Interiors, which operates 13 shops and has around 100 staff.

"He was a father figure to us. Des was very well liked by his staff and in the community," Mr O'Farrell said.

"We have been getting phone calls of condolence all day."

The respected businessman had eight children with his wife Youlanda - Matthew, Desmond, Denise, Gregory, Gillian, Yolanda, Orlando and Gerardo.

The family was deeply affected by his wife's death from cancer in 2013.

"I think that would have had a deep impact on him. She was his rock and she was with him all along. The family were only just coming to terms with her death," Mr O'Farrell said.

Mr Kelly was also well known for supporting his local League of Ireland team, Bohemian FC.

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In a statement, the team thanked Mr Kelly for his support and financial backing over the years.

"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 Des' family," it said.

Mr Kelly passed away suddenly in the night.

Mr O'Farrell said it came as a shock and was unexpected and described his friend and a fit and healthy man.

Mr Kelly's remains are reposing at his home today from 2pm until 7pm and from 11.30am to 3pm tomorrow, with funeral mass being held on Monday at noon at the Holy Trinity Church, Ratoath.

The family has requested donations in lieu of flowers to the Morning Star and Regina Ceoli hostels.

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