Bay Ridge Resident Profile: Ed Santelmann
by Sydney Petty
Friendly, charming and funny, and seemingly eternally young and energetic, Ed Santelmann is a beloved familiar face to all on Hull Ave. and to many in Bay Ridge, because, like so many Bay Ridge residents, he is an avid outdoorsman. Over the years, he’s enjoyed plying local waters by motor and sailboat, until seven or eight years ago or so, when he also became interested in kayaking.
“I always wanted to,” he says, “but just never did. So I took a class on kayaking over in Easton, and it’s been a love affair ever since.”
An Active Life
Ed travels up and down the Eastern seaboard every year to different kayaking destinations in Florida, South Carolina, Quebec, Vermont and the Adirondacks, where he meets up with other kayakers who share his passion for exploring American waterways with the light, swift crafts.
At home, he also volunteers as kayak support in various triathlons and long-distance swims at Centennial Lake in Columbia and in the Chester and Sassafras Rivers over on the Eastern Shore. “Kayak support involves safety support for swimmers – they can hold onto your boat if they get tired or you can call for a back-up power boat in case of an emergency.”
Eight times last summer, Ed answered the call for kayak support at these events. “That’s eight tee shirts!” he grins boyishly, displaying the fun, disarming humor that has so endeared him to the members of the community.
Ed is also proud of his sailboat – a Morgan 24. He bought it in 1970, but it was built in 1967. “That’s when they built the best fiberglass boats,” he says. “Forty four years later, I’ve never had a problem with blistering.”
Many days, Ed can be seen working around his yard, where he indulges in another Bay Ridge passion – gardening. He grows tomatoes and peppers, and maintains hedges, flowers, trees and lawn with a seemingly effortless aplomb.
Ed has other interests as well. He volunteers as a patient driver in the American Cancer Society’s “Road to Recovery” program, transporting cancer patients to doctor appointments. “It’s a way to do something direct for people, rather than just donate money,” he says.
An Artist by Career and Avocation
But first and foremost, Ed is an artist, educated at the Corcoran School of Art in D.C. and the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida. His career included a stint as a Signal Corps photographer in the army, then airbrushing photographs of military equipment for technical manuals, and finally producing technical animation for the National Air and Space Museum and for the Department of Defense.
After he retired in 1999, Ed became interested in Bay boat modeling. “My son Neil asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I told him the model for a Buzzards Bay Boy’s Boat – a sailing dingy. That’s when I got back into modeling, which I loved as a kid.”
That in turn led to his joining the St. Michaels Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Model Guild, where Ed and his fellow guild members build boat kit models in the store for display, maintain models at the museum, and teach classes on half-hull boat model building. To date, he’s built a dozen gorgeous half-hull models and is now concentrating on building equally beautiful and elegant wood and glass display cases for models.
Love and Family
How many Bay Ridge residents were introduced to our community by their sweethearts? Ed came here with his girlfriend and soon to be wife Nancy in 1956 to visit her mother, who owned a house on East Lake Drive. Ed and Nancy eventually bought that house and set about raising their son and daughter, Neil and Gay. The kids enjoyed a happy Bay Ridge childhood playing with neighborhood kids Taylor Atkins, Phil Grubbs, Chew Owens, Charlie Deale and many others. Bay Ridge writer Deacon Ritterbush of A Beachcomber’s Odyssey fame served as a sometime babysitter.
Sadly, Nancy died in 1974 when Neil and Gay were just teenagers. But Ed met lovely Carol, and the two settled into their house on Hull Ave., where they lived happily for many years until Carol died several years ago.
Ed misses his dear Carol, but he has adjusted quite graciously to a single lifestyle. He seems content now, maintaining his relationships with his children, grandkids and friends and pursuing his many passions. And during his many comings and goings, Ed never loses an opportunity to delight a Bay Ridge neighbor with his friendly smile, affable wit, and his ever ready laugh.