“Nicest kid I’d ever met”

Paul Kelly's high school yearbook photo
Paul Kelly at Glenbard East H.S.

Last week, I wrote a post about Paul Kelly who was a DePaul University freshman, Blue Demon tennis player, and resident of Corcoran Hall just as I was back in 1979-80.

Since that post was published (and shared more than 200 times), my friend and Paul’s best friend and tennis partner, Rick Velasco, was kind enough to send me all of the newspaper clippings that he had saved subsequent to Paul’s death on January 12, 1980.

In this post, I would simply like to share how some of the people who knew Paul best described him at the time.

Paul’s father, Gerald Kelly: “It always happens to the good ones. He was madly in love with tennis. He had just made No. 3 singles. He was very happy. He had just gotten all B’s last quarter and planned to go into a new honors program in accounting.”

A family friend: “Paul was a tennis star at Glenbard East High School and was just a terrific boy with a great personality.”

Friend and doubles partner Rick Velasco: “Paul was a super guy. We were supposed to play second doubles and we had a good chance at first.”

Rick: “The first time we played, I knew we’d be doubles partners. I felt like I’ve known him for a long time. A lot of people thought we knew each other since high school.”

(I can attest to that. Many of us always thought Paul and Rick were roommates. It wasn’t until after Paul died that we found out Rick didn’t even live in the dorm!)

Rick: “Paul was going to be my doubles partner this year. He was a great player. He was better than I’ll ever be.”

Rick: “As soon as we met, we were great friends. We did everything together. Everyone liked him at school. He was the kind of guy you couldn’t be mad at. He was always around when you needed a friend.”

Unnamed DePaul teammate who described Paul as an “All-American” type of guy: “He didn’t smoke, drink, or do anything that was illegal. He was a friendly person who could be your friend easily.”

Unnamed DePaul teammate: “He told me he was interested in getting into the five year accounting program at DePaul. He was pretty excited about it.”

Paul’s tennis coach at DePaul, George Lott: “I saw him the night before. He was very happy because we were making plans for the tennis tour. He took his game very seriously. I just can’t figure it out, Paul was such a nice man. And so was Frankie (Paul’s killer).”

(Lott, a 3-time doubles Wimbledon champion in the 1930’s, described Paul, a freshman, as “the second best player at the university”.

Bill Toms, Paul’s first tennis coach: “Paul was the nicest kid I had ever met.” (Toms was in tears when he heard of Paul’s death. He was the one who “put the racket in his hands”.)

I learned from Rick’s newspaper articles that DePaul had held an afternoon memorial service held for Paul on the Friday after the murder in the religious services area of the Stuart Center which was the student services building at the time. I probably attended this service but I have no recollection of it. Many of us were probably still in shock.

The DePaul basketball team was ranked No.1 in the nation at the time and, prior to its game against Lamar University, players wore a mourning patch on their jerseys in Paul’s memory.

According to Robert Gielow, then the DePaul Athletic Director and a Catholic priest, the Athletic Department was considering setting up a scholarship in Paul’s name. “No decision has been made yet,” he told the student newspaper at the time. “The scholarship would be up to the University, but athletics has discussed the possiblity of setting up one.”

While Gielow’s heart was probably in the right place, as he said, such a scholarship would have to be approved by the university heads. Today, DePaul offers more than 500 scholarships, over 30 of them athletic endowment scholarships. Not one of them bears Paul Kelly’s name.

Letter-winner brick "In Memory of Paul Kelly"
A Scholarship Tennis Player

Upon my request, the DePaul athletic department agreed to place a brick in Paul’s memory as a part of the Letter-winners’ Walk outside of the school’s softball and soccer fields.

The DePaulia student newspaper published a tribute to Paul shortly after his death. I will publish it in its entirety tomorrow.

 

Paul would have turned 19 on January 28, 1980.

Also see the Comments after Do You Know Paul Kelly?