PALM COAST — Edmund “Ed” Hess, a longtime Beverly Beach town commissioner, was killed Thursday in a two-car crash near the intersection of Osprey Point Drive and State Road A1A.
The wreck occurred shortly before 1 p.m. and disrupted traffic near the Hammock Dunes Bridge for more than two hours, according to a Flagler County sheriff’s spokeswoman.
Hess, 79, who lived in Surfside Estates, was eastbound in a 2005 Ford Escape on Osprey Point Drive when he made a left turn onto State Road A1A and collided with a northbound 2012 Dodge Avenger driven by Mary Dullea, 34, of Philadelphia, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Dullea suffered serious injuries.
Beverly Beach Town Commissioner Frank Gromling said Friday that he heard about the accident on Thursday but was unaware of Hess’ death until much later.
“My wife knew of the wreck because she couldn’t get home,” Gromling said. “We live two houses north of where it happened.”
Dullea was wearing a seat belt, Hess was not and alcohol was not a factor in the wreck, according to the FHP report. Both Hess and Dullea were airlifted to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach.
According to a 2008 interview with The News-Journal, Hess and his wife, Marge, moved to Flagler County in 1985 and Hess soon became involved in local politics, at one time serving as chairman of the Town Commission in Beverly Beach.
Hess loved community theater, acting in several productions including “All My Sons,” “Too Soon For Daisies” and “Scrooge and Such,” and he was known for his impersonation of character actor Walter Brennan.
Hess also worked as an electrician on occasion for the city of Flagler Beach, hanging Christmas lights around the city and sometimes dressing as Santa for the holidays.
John Sbordone, director and co-founder of the City Repertory Theater, remembered Hess as “a consummate professional” on the stage.
Hess appeared in productions at the Flagler Playhouse when Sbordone was also affiliated with the Flagler County acting group.
“We were talking about bringing his Walter Brennan over to the City Repertory Theater,” Sbordone said Friday. “I just talked to him a couple of weeks ago about that.”
According to News-Journal files, Hess said he had acted in commercials and had bit parts in a string of TV shows such as “seaQuest DSV” and “Family Matters” over the years.
Hess also regularly performed at churches, volunteered at homes for seniors and war veterans and impersonated Brennan during the Creekside Festival at the Princess Place Preserve, at the Florida Agricultural Museum and at the Flagler County Public Library.
Sbordone said Hess was easy to work with.
“He had his lines, he had his cues and he worked extraordinarily well with others,” he said. “What a shame.”
Gromling said the intersection at Osprey Point Drive and S.R. A1A where Thursday’s accident occurred “is not particularly dangerous” but he noted there have been other accidents in that area.
“That stretch of road, when people are coming north, they come through the S-curve and they start to accelerate,” he said. “I see it a lot.”
Gromling said Beverly Beach officials have expressed concerns in the past about motorists speeding through the town on S.R. A1A, where the speed limit is 45 mph.
“We tried to get FHP to lower it,” he said. “They said they couldn’t lower it because the traffic surveys didn’t merit it.”
He said news of Hess’ death was “a shock” and “it’s a loss, no question” to the tiny town.
“I’m really saddened by the loss of Ed,” he said. “Ed was a longtime, active participant in Beverly Beach activities. He was well-known and liked in Surfside Estates, where he lived.”
Gromling said he doesn’t know what lies ahead for the commission at this time.
“There’s no official decision as to what we’re doing,” he said. “I enjoyed working with him and found him to be very concerned about the future of the town and he was very active in doing what he could to advance the town.”
Attempts to reach family members Friday were unsuccessful. According to the 2008 interview, Hess had five children and nine grandchildren.
— Staff Writer Annie Martin contributed to this report.