My Life and Times with a Remarkable Gentleman Actor"

by Kristine M. Smith
Copyright 2001, All rights reserved.

"Photo by Sue Keenan"

"Photo by Bill Dow"


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About the Author

Kristine Smith has been a fan of DeForest Kelley's for three and a half decades. She has also meandered among his fans at numerous conventions and at individual and collective ceremonies honoring him and STAR TREK. She writes: "I have witnessed first-hand the enormous love and the respect people have for De. And I continue to see, almost daily, how people have remained enchanted with him, even following his passing in 1999. Millions of people were immediately and acutely affected by his unanticipated death. Tens of thousands of them expressed outright anguish - feelings akin to losing one's best friend or a family member. A single, cursory visit to just one of numerous DeForest Kelley websites (national and international) proves the veracity of this declaration.

"Categorically and undeniably, De became -- and will endure as -- one of the most-loved and best-remembered personalities in the world. His Dr. McCoy is at the heart of STAR TREK's mythology, and TREK is a tenacious mythology which will last, in all likelihood, until the day humans forget how to aspire to a higher standard for themselves and their progeny.

"De was my friend, but he was also my hero -- one of very few heroes whose durability was sorely tested, yet found to be utterly reliable. I wrote this book to show how deeply De influenced my life - and to remind you, his fans and friends, how seamlessly and comfortably he fit into yours.

"I undertook this endeavor for the millions of fans who never had the pleasure of meeting De "up close and personal." My sincerest goal for this book is that it will validate every intuition you ever had about DeForest Kelley being one of Hollywood's "good guys."

About the Book

The evolution of an extraordinary relationship is meticulously documented in this affectionate - and affecting - personal memoir. The author, Kristine Smith, begins at the beginning (1966), inviting her readers to vicariously tag along and share her twixt-twelve-and-twenty excitement as she casts her eyes on her favorite actor, DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of STAR TREK) for the first time ever: live, up-close and personal.

Surprisingly, Smith's cosmic destiny is somehow secured during this initial interaction. Actor Kelley takes a professional interest in Kris within weeks as her writing abilities become known to him by way of a letter she had written him and a school essay she had written about him. The actor begins to cultivate Kris's personal and creative evolution - beginning in Washington State as a fledgling freelance writer (whose first nationwide article he launches) and continuing through her move to California in 1989 as a Hollywood-bound hopeful; to her eventual establishment as a Hollywood-based executive secretary - continuing even as far as her anxiety-provoking forays into the world of stand-up comedy which she essayed at numerous national STAR TREK conventions. Not known (in advance) and certainly never anticipated by either participant is the amazing "end piece" of their alliance: the poignant and heart-rending events that underscored Kelley's final weeks as Smith becomes his personal assistant and eventually his caregiver during the last few months of his life.

Back Cover of Book (excerpt)

As we approached the hospital, the song FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE came on the radio, hauntingly rendered by the original performer. I was LIVING every word of it, silently, very near tears, thinking about how caring for De these past weeks had been my opportunity to pay him back for all the times he had been there for me. The lyrics hit me hard. I had no idea they were affecting De as well. As I was steering the Lexus to the hospital entrance and braking to a stop, the final line ("I have someone who needs me") rang out. De reached over, patted my hand sincerely and said, "I need you, dear girl." Tears flooded my eyes and I cried out, "Oh, God, De!" I exited the door, went to the trunk, lifted the wheelchair out, unfolded it and then pushed it to his side of the car. As I lifted De out of the car, I sniffled, "You have perfect timing, Mr. Kelley!" We were both in tears. He said, "You're terrific," and I said, "You're pretty terrific yourself, you know!" We cried all the way to Carolyn's room.

Just before leaving the hospital I whispered into De's room as he slept, "Goodnight, sweet prince." It made me cry, but it seemed a good way to ask the angels to keep a close eye on him....(from the book)

(free sneak preview)

"The evil that men do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." Shakespeare

If the above is true - as sadly, it usually is - this book wouldn't have been written, couldn't have been written. DeForest Kelley was never a bad guy, except in movies and in hundreds of television series episodes. At his memorial service on June 22, 1999, on the verge of tears, I stated, "In my opinion, DeForest Kelley was the kind of man God had in mind when He created Adam. If this sad old world could boast a much larger population of DeForest Kelley types, it would indeed be the paradise we all wish it was."

DeForest Kelley - the person, not the actor - became (without trying) such a monumental part of my personal architecture that I'd crumble without his spirit and legacy to support me. I'm not built, or even retrofitted, to withstand a 10.0 magnitude fracture to my superstructure. "De" was a mentor, a guardian, and a devoted friend. I respected him, treasured him, and honored him. His goodness continues.

After reading this book, you will understand all this. He was a decent, gentle, kind human being. He was all of these things, nearly all of the time, which comes close to qualifying him for sainthood in my judgment. You will also understand, I think, why De laughed so heartily all those times I tried to cajole him into writing his own autobiography "before it's too late." I joked once, "You know, De, if YOU don't write it, and I end up writing, it may inadvertently launch a new world religion!"

All this might lead you to wonder if he was perhaps too kind for his own good -- so kind as to be ineffective when toughness or tenacity mattered. Not so. He was effective and he was tough in the ways that matter in life. I learned a lot watching and listening to him. I sincerely hope some of it rubbed off…

The last 90 days of De's life, I became his personal assistant and caregiver, in the hospital and out and about. Carolyn, his beloved wife, best friend and ally for nearly 60 years, was herself confined to a hospital and to a bed, walker or wheelchair so through De's last days I was their companion, caregiver and advocate. With no children of their own the Kelleys were accustomed to and happiest when taking care of each other. Nonetheless, the time came when De needed extra help to tie up loose ends. He needed efficient, reliable transportation between the hospital and his home, doctor, bank and attorney. He wanted a trusted ally to take in and then recall all that was said at the different meetings with these professionals. Once in a while he just needed to see his own home, look out at his garden, take a shower in his own shower stall, and have a nap in his own bed. These few, cherished outings to his home, lasting just a few hours each, never failed to refresh his spirit and they definitely promoted a peaceful, optimistic outlook within him. He'd forget, for several hours at a stretch, just how desperately ill he was.

Oddly enough, I probably spent more "up close and personal" time with De the first month after I was called in to assist him in the hospital than I had in the entire 32 year span I'd known him up until that point. It wasn't necessary to spend a lot of time with De Kelley in order to discover how special he was. The innate GOODNESS he revealed - even during crisis, tragedy or adversity - shined through, in the many hues of a rainbow: brilliantly and vibrantly. He was truly "good people."

When I got the call about De on March 14th, 1999, it devastated me. There had been no forewarning. My mind and body weren't prepared. I nearly lost consciousness from the shock and sadness I felt, which came in waves for hours afterward. The Kelleys, two years previously, confided to me the fact that De had undergone some surgery, but in order to protect me from worthless worry and anxiety, they had told a little white lie and said the tumor the doctors found was benign, and that all was well. They were upbeat; De began to feel better; he appeared at several conventions; we chatted on the phone hundreds of times, and I went merrily on, blissfully unaware, believing that fate had dealt the Kelleys a lucky hand…

I don't know how many of you have participated in a course of care and treatment for a terminally ill loved one. Based on my experience, it is one of the most unsettling and at the same time one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. It is knowing, going in, that - short of a medical or God-given miracle - the individual you are helping is NOT going to recover. In fact, they are going to deteriorate progressively until there are times you feel like running from the room and crying your eyes out - but you can't! It is knowing that DESPITE your dedication and devotion, despite all those hours and those truly Herculean efforts, your loved one is going to lose the battle and perish - and more than likely, you are going to be right there when they do, at their bedside, holding their hand. People fearful of death or of the possibility of physical or emotional suffering experienced by the dying often cannot endure it. Usually it's a job left to medical people, or to folks with an ability to transcend their fear and loathing during a tragic situation who have the grit and the spirituality necessary to be able to step up to the plate and say, "Let me help."

Certainly, it came as a big shock to get the call. De was in the terminal stages of cancer and was in an intensive care unit in a local hospital. Could I lend a hand? Could I?! OF COURSE! I could certainly lend a hand, and my ONLY liver and a kidney, if that would help, as well! "I'm your girl!"

What follows are my own personal "life and times" with DeForest Kelley, from the first time I met him as a teenager in Washington State in May, 1968, until his last day on earth, June 11, 1999. While this narrative is mostly upbeat, fun, poignant, funny, and heartwarming - which is what 98% of being in De's presence was all about -- the final days may disturb you in some places. It is quite likely that you LOVED DeForest Kelley wholeheartedly, whether as a personal friend, business associate, or from afar, in the outermost reaches of fandom. I have been honest throughout. I have also taken great care to be sensitive to your needs as fans and readers so that I would not unduly upset you when delving into "end stage" events. I know you want the truth. The truth is he was magnificent.

This particular effort is my public salute to De, the man I knew and loved through the best of times and the worst of times. De showed us how to live, and he showed us how to die. He did both with grace, humor, hope and endlessly enduring love.

The world is a better place because he trod here -- mindfully and with the indwelling gentleness of a true spiritual champion.

Kris Smith
North Hollywood, CA
January 2001

For ordering or additional information, contact:

Remember to buy all of Kris's books at http://www.authorhouse.com/home.aspx. All you need to do to order at AuthorHouse is to logon, type Kristine M Smith into the Author field, and then click on FIND BOOKS. Or call a toll free number: 1-888-280-7715 and have your credit card number ready, plus the title of the book(s): "DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories"; "Let No Day Dawn that the Animals Cannot Share"; or "Floating Around Hollywood"


All Rights Reserved.
This page layout COPYRIGHT 2001, 2003, 2004 By Steve Jensen
A Special Thanks to KRIS SMITH, A SPECIAL De Kelley friend!


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