"His mother lived to be 97, his father lived to his mid-80s, there was no history of depression in the family," Schindler says. "All I can think is that maybe he had worn out his welcome as an icon to the people around him. Still, as a lover of life and a lover of ladies, I cannot see him ending his own life. He had too much pride, too much self-respect, to do that. He had this belief in his own legend. He was Larry Kelley! He had the Heisman!"
Of course, at his end, he did not.
He had a daughter, too. The obituary writers made no mention of her. How could they? They knew nothing of her. Kelley never talked about her, with anybody.
Her name is Katharine Lynne Libby, and she shares a first name with her mother. She goes by her middle name. She turns 60 in January, which means she was born in the middle of the three-year marriage of Quita and Larry Kelley. Larry was gone before Lynne turned two.
She grew up believing that her mother's second husband, the Air Force officer, was her father, and for all practical purposes he is. She found out about her biological father only when she was 19. In 1975, when she was about to marry her second and current husband, a retired Episcopal priest, she decided to write to Kelley. Having no address, Lynne wrote him in care of the Yale alumni office. In her letter she included a picture, wrote of her daughter from her first marriage, suggested a father-and-daughter reunion.
His letter back was "very polite," she says. He included a picture as well. That was the end of their correspondence. The father-daughter reunion never happened. It seems they would have had much to talk about. Then again, maybe not.
Lynne didn't attend Kelley's funeral. She had her granddaughter and two of her granddaughter's friends staying with her in Florida. She was busy, taking the kids to the aquarium, to a Marlins game, to the beach. "It's hard to have feelings for someone you've never met," Lynne says. "Maybe that happens in the movies. Not in real life."
Her granddaughter is athletic, a swimmer, the winner of a Presidential Physical Fitness award. Lynne Libby doesn't know if her father knew he was a great-grandfather. She doesn't particularly care. She's busy with other things. She's engaged in her life.
Robert King is a psychiatrist at Yale who studies suicide. He knows that nearly 10% of all people with persistent depression kill themselves. He knows that open-heart surgery and minor strokes, which Kelley had had, can lead to depression. But a man who could hide a daughter for 60 years could easily hide depression. At the time, selling his Heisman looked like a logical move. Postmortem, King says, it looks like the act of a person planning suicide.
"If good looks, athletic accomplishment, popularity and admiration are what matter most to you, old age will be cruel," King says. "Only our ties to other people, to causes larger than our own selves, can protect us from the slings and arrows of aging. Here was a man who could hold on to his high school stationery for over 60 years but couldn't hold on to meaningful relationships with his daughter, his niece, his many wives. That may be the real fumble at the core of the life of Larry Kelley."