Grace Kelly’s Daddy Issues

Grace’s rough-hewn father, John B. Kelly Sr., was already well on his way to parlaying a $7,000 stake into a multimillion-dollar masonry empire when he married a photographer’s model, Margaret Majer. It was “Ma” Kelly who established a set of rules that Grace would live by: “Be just, be punctual, buy only what you need and pay cash.”

Seemingly aloof and withdrawn, Grace grew up under the shadow of achievement (though John B. Kelly’s financial success—he built Philly’s Packard Building—could not buy him Main Line social acceptance). Grace’s father was a superb athlete who had given up boxing to take up rowing and in 1920 won the Olympic single sculls championship at Antwerp. When he wasn’t allowed to compete in England’s prestigious Diamond Sculls at Henley because he “worked with his hands,” he found an avenger: his own son. Kell vindicated his father by becoming a championship rower himself, winning not only the Diamond Sculls but almost every other single sculls championship in the world.

Friends now say John B.’s single-minded determination was not always healthy. “John expected a great deal from his kids,” says Gam. (Years later, his son Kell’s self-confessed philandering helped shatter his first marriage and caused the mother of his six children to remarry and leave Philadelphia. In 1975 Kell’s well-publicized fling with a striking transsexual named Rachel Harlow—formerly Richard Finocchio—was a factor in his decision to drop out of the mayoral contest in Philadelphia when the opposition threatened to campaign with the slogan “Do you want Rachel Harlow as First Lady of Philadelphia?”)

Grace had her own problems with her demanding father(who died in 1960). She did play hockey and swim, if only to please her dad, but with some trepidation. “Poor Grace was something of an outsider at home,” said a friend. “John wasn’t interested in anyone unathletic. He had no appreciation of culture.” From the beginning Grace preferred solitude. She wore heavy-rimmed glasses to read, danced barefoot with her tomboy older sister Peggy (who often went without stockings or shoes) and would daydream about becoming a dancer, an actress, a nurse or an FBI agent. “Grace wasn’t shy like you read everywhere,” insists Peggy, Daddy’s favorite, “she was just quiet.” Still, Lizanne recalls the day “I hid Grace in the closet—and nobody missed her.”

(From People Magazine’s Tribute Piece)

Grace dancing with John

Grace dancing with John

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