Will Ely was born John William "Bill" Ely Jr. on (March 20) September 7, 1913 in White Plains, New York. His father, John William Ely, was born 1865 in New York. His mother, Evelyn Gates, was born 1881 in Missouri. His parents married on December 16, 1908. They had three children, of which he was the first born. His younger brother Lester Woodson Ely was born in 1923. His sister Mary Katrina Ely was born in 1925. The family lived at 6 Orchard Street.
His father was an inventor and manufacturer of steel devices for amusement park rides that were used throughout the world. He was president of the J. W. Ely Company with offices in NYC and an assembly plant in the Bronx. His mother attended one year of college and was a certified school teacher.
In 1925 the family moved to a splendid home at 168 North Broadway, which cost $75,000 and the assistance of three domestic servants.
On August 9, 1931 his father died at the age of sixty-six. Afterwards his mother sold their impressive home and moved the family to a more modest home on Buch Street, which is near Woodcrest on Savoy Park in White Plains, NY.
In 1932 his fifty-one-year-old widowed mother worked as a school teacher on a WPA project. The WPA, Works Progress Administration, was an enlightened government program that funded community projects during the Great Depression.
He graduated from White Plains High School in June of 1932.
In September 1932 he enrolled as a full-time student in the three-year certificate program at Pratt Institute School of Art in Brooklyn. His classmates included Richard Case, Ed DeLavy and Ed Cartier. His teachers were H. Winfield Scott, Frederick Blakeslee and Nicholas Riley.
In 1935 he was elected Class President at Pratt.
In June of 1935 he completed his studies and graduated from Pratt. His yearbook description says, "'Swell Guy' is the phrase that fits this quiet, hard worker of the first water."
In 1936 he began to draw pen and ink story illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Mystery Adventures,Saucy Movie Tales, Saucy Romantic Adventures, Spicy Adventure Stories, Super Sports, Thrilling Adventure and Thrilling Western.
In 1936 he also began a long and impressive career in comic books. Over the next thirty years his work appeared in comic books produced by most of the major publishers, including DC, Marvel, Dell, Centaur, Fiction House, Ziff-Davis, Hillman and Charlton.
On April 16, 1936 he became engaged to Miss Norma Link Allen, a twenty-one-year-old model, who lived at 383 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, NY. A few months later the engagement was called off.
In 1940 at the age of twenty-six he returned to live at home with his widowed mother and two younger siblings.
In 1942 he drew The Green Hornet comic strip for newspaper syndication.
In 1943 he married Martha Ely and moved to 165 North Washington Avenue in White Plains, NY.
Nothing is known about his WWII military service.
After the war he continued to draw for comic books throughout the 1950s and up until the 1960s.
He and his wife moved to 35 Greenfield Road in Milford, Connecticut, in New Haven County.
John William Ely died in Milford, CT, on November 12, 1993 at the age of eighty.
© David Saunders 2012