HOT SPRINGS - Richard Kelley, stepfather of former President Bill Clinton, died Wednesday at his home. He was 91. Kelley, a retired salesman, had been in declining health in recent weeks, and the former president visited him Monday.
Kitty Koonce, a caregiver who answered the phone at Kelley's home Wednesday evening, said Kelley died about 5:45 p.m. He had cancer, said two sources close to the Clinton family who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Kelley ran a food brokerage business for many years in Little Rock before retiring in 1992. He met Clinton's mother at a horse racing track, and they married in 1982. It was his second marriage and her fourth.
At the time, Clinton was preparing for a campaign to regain the Arkansas governor's office.
"I would come to love Dick Kelley and grow ever more grateful for the happiness he brought Mother, and me," Clinton wrote in his memoir, "My Life."
Kelley became one of Clinton's favorite golf companions. "Well into his eighties, when he played his handicap and I played mine, he beat me more than half the time," Clinton wrote.
Kelley also cherished the former president, referring to him as "my best friend."
"When you meet the president, he'll just make you feel like you're the most important person in the room," Kelley once told The Associated Press.
"He's just a regular guy and if you're playing cards or playing golf with him, you'd see that," he said.
When playing golf with Clinton, "I'm just out there with a friend," Kelley said. "We don't give him any special consideration. Sometimes he hits an extra ball for practice. And we joke, 'Well, which one of those are you going to play? Whatever you say, Mr. President.'"
During Clinton's presidency, Kelley seemed comfortable in the shadows of his stepson. The Kelleys were married 12 years before she died Jan. 6, 1994, after a battle with breast cancer.
Even after her death, Kelley promoted his wife's autobiography, "Leading With My Heart," appearing on national television and autographing books. In a newspaper interview, he said he was content to promote the book for one reason: "I have fond memories of Virginia and I know she'd want me to do this."
The couple were tireless campaigners for Clinton and spent the night of his first inauguration in 1993 in the Queen's Bedroom, the White House room where Winston Churchill always slept.