Hundreds mourn Bill Clinton's stepfather

Updated: 2007-02-04 10:40

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Bill Clinton and his family joined hundreds of mourners Saturday for the funeral of his stepfather, the man who the former president said brought his mother the "most secure, stable years she ever had."

Former President Bill Clinton, left, US Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, center and their daughter Chelsea Clinton leave First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs, Ark., after funeral services for the former president's stepfather Richard Kelley Saturday, Feb. 3, 2007. Kelley, a retired salesman, died Wednesday at his home at age 91 after a long battle with cancer. [AP]

Richard Kelley, a retired salesman, died Wednesday at his home at age 91 after a long battle with colon and liver cancer.

"He didn't wuss out at the end. It was all done with grace and love," Clinton told more than 600 people at First United Methodist Church, describing his stepfather's final moments. "I am very thankful to him for many things, but most of all for giving our mother the 12 most secure, stable years she ever had."

Clinton attended with his wife, US Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, and their daughter, Chelsea, who read an Irish benediction during the funeral service.

The Rev. John Miles, who performed the wedding ceremony for Kelley and Clinton's mother, Virginia, in 1982, conducted the service.

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. It was his second marriage and her fourth.

At the time, Clinton was preparing for a campaign to regain the Arkansas governor's office.

In recalling Kelley's devotion to his spouse, the former president also remembered the warning he gave Kelley before they married.

"I said, 'You know you'll never be able to get any insurance again. You're already 66 and she's been a widow three times," the former president said.

Lara Farrar said her grandfather was full of life and a bit of a pack rat. She joked about the collection of hotel shampoo bottles, peanuts and ketchup packets he took from the hospital shortly before he died.

"He truly was the embodiment of living life to the fullest," she said.

The Kelleys were married 12 years before she died Jan. 6, 1994, after a battle with breast cancer. After her death, he 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."

Kelley also cherished the former president, referring to him as "my best friend."

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