My Son, the Doctor!

"My siblings often tell me that I tend to over-glorify my physician-dad and his life," writes columnist Greg Kelly. "Perhaps … but I'm a storyteller and dad had a lot of good stories to tell."

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.”

—William Shakespeare

My siblings often tell me that I tend to over-glorify my physician-dad and his life. Perhaps … but I’m a storyteller and dad had a lot of good stories to tell.

Even with my inquisitive journalistic nature, though, I could never get my father to talk very much on his father. In the family, it’s something of a scandal as to what he did. History was not kind to him. For my Dad, his mother, Alice Ward Kelly, was his “guiding light.” His father, Augustine Charles Kelly, was largely forgotten.

We do know that “Gus” was a man of “substance” early in his life. Dad said the family lived very well during the Roaring 20s. My grandfather worked in the hospitality business and rose to senior management positions at several high-end East Coast hotels. This, I was told, included the celebrated Willard Hotel in Washington, DC.

The Pennsylvania Avenue hotel dates to the 1840s and is famous for hosting the high and mighty, including nearly every US president, in its time. With my son Kyle (that’s Gus’s, great grandson) now a college student in the nation’s capitol, I was hoping to stay at The Willard one night. First I’ll need a lottery hit—“room rates range from $299 to $4,100 per night.”

I have yet to find any hard facts as to if, and when, the Willard times occurred. Dad did once tell me that his mom, Alice, was very friendly with Thomas Marshall, who mostly lived at the Willard Hotel during his two terms as Woodrow Wilson’s vice president from 1913 to 1921. VP Marshall, who was the son of an Indiana physician, died at The Willard in 1925.

Gus died in 1947 shortly before his 60th birthday, but he did live to know his son had earned his medical degree. I don’t know if he was there in 1943 to see my dad get his diploma, though. According to my father, Gus was either a drunken weakling who abandoned his family or he was an affable but over-pressured guy who died of a legitimate illness. It was probably somewhere in between. We’ll never really know.

My physician-dad, a lifelong Republican and WW II vet, said that his favorite American President was Harry Truman. The “plain speaking” man from Missouri, commenting about his own otherwise undistinguished farmer-father, John, said: "How could he be a failure if his son became President of the United States?"

Well, as to Gus Kelly: “How could he be a failure if his son became a doctor?"