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Second, and most surprising in view of their having been prominent for so long, the Kellys are almost embarrassingly candid—again, with the possible and predictable exception of Grace. The personal laundry goes on the line almost the moment communication is established. Grace, whose exposure has been so much greater, tries harder to stay aloof. "I could never understand my father, letting photographers take pictures of him shaving in the bathroom," she said the other day, while doing needlepoint in a sitting room of her 200-room, 700-year-old castle. "Kell's the same way."
All the sisters, and the mother, tell young Jack Kelly Jr. stories with pride and affection. The adult Jack Kelly Jr. does not always get such kindly treatment. The women are unanimously unhappy with his broken marriage. His wife, the former Mary Freeman, is a swimmer. They met at the 1952 Olympics, got married in 1954, had five daughters and a son and carved out separate lives for themselves, Mary in various Philadelphia swimming programs, Kelly in everything. ("They never had a meal together," says Grace. "He'd be off making a speech, and she'd be holding swimming lessons.")
But these are a social people, and they know marriages have a way of going bad—Peggy herself has failed twice—so their disapproval is deeper than that. It seems, rather, that they watch Kelly plowing the ground his father broke and, knowing that they are watching an understudy in the star's role, it unnerves them that he is not his father. Or that he may even be rebelling at this late date.
Here is Grace: "Kell never had to grow up.... He's naive...confuses attention for loyalty...tries too hard to make people like him...and doesn't have father's toughness...his sense of humor...his resilience."
"Part of it is excessive ego," says his mother. "Big Jack had it, it's part of Kell. Men who achieve often have that kind of ego. But Big Jack was more practiced in handling it. He got his the hard way. Kell never had to work hard for his bread and butter and his gin and tonic. He had it land in front of him. He picked it up, all right, but it was there. I think Kell gets his ego flattered too often. I don't think he realizes how far afield it takes him. Friends capture his ear. A little water, a little oil, and he says, 'Sure, I'll do it.' Fortunately, he can do more work in a day than any three men, but there's a limit. There is a limit.
"Since his father died there has definitely been less order in his life. I often tell him, 'Grow up, Kell.' I'd like to see him cut 50% of his activities out of his life. And I'd really like to see him get his big toe out of politics. It serves absolutely no purpose, only to feed his ego. He's simply not tough enough for politics. He can't say no.
"I don't say the influence of Big Jack was always good for Kell. I often told Jack that he leaned too hard on the boy. He trained him too hard for the Olympics, trained him too fine, and it hurt Kell.
"But now that Big Jack's not around anymore...."
Each Christmas, under the headline DECKING THE HALL, the Philadelphia Dispatch runs a gift list for the prominent public servants of Philadelphia—gifts it would give them if it could. For Jack Kelly one year the list stated: "Nothing. He's got it all."
"All," or most of it, can be seen from the Kelly penthouse in The Plaza off the Ben Franklin Parkway. The view from there is enough to make a man believe Philadelphia is worth saving. The Schuylkill River coils below, on its banks spidery cherry trees bend toward the water on which Jack Jr. expended so much amateur sweat, and down a way, along Boathouse Row, stands the Vesper Boat Club which he—as his father's successor—patronizes to the tune of $15,000 a year. This keeps it solvent and heated. One can also see, on the east bank of the Schuylkill, the bronze statue (on a brick pedestal) of Jack Sr., hunched over the oars of his racing shell.