Today would have been DeForest Kelley's 94th birthday. Wow! Unhappily for the rest of us, he didn't live to see his 80th roll around. But every year, reliably, I get notes, Facebook messages and other communications from stalwart fans of De's (Carl Rylander, John Bowersox, Marge Duff, Jim Westbrook and others) to remind me that they haven't forgotten him. I hope he's looking down and seeing how much love millions of people still have for him. He once said in an interview with Dan Madsen, "There's nothing deader than a dead actor. I sometimes wonder if they will remember me!" (To which I retorted in print something like (paraphrasing here), "They'll remember you, Mr. Kelley. They'll remember you!" And this was before I reconnected with him again in 1988 and began the amazing journey that ended up with me becoming his personal assistant and caregiver at the end of his life.
DeForest Kelley is ever-present in lots of people's minds--and for all the right reasons. He wasn't 'just' an actor--he was an earth angel with a terrific sense of humor, immense compassion for others, and a smile and blue eyes that lit up the world. Yes, he was a helluva actor. But he was a by-far even-better human being.
At his memorial service at Paramount, I said, "DeForest Kelley was the kind of man God had in mind when he created Adam. If this sad old world was more heavily-populated with DeForest Kelley types, it would be the paradise we all wish it was." He loved God (without being preachy in the least) and loved his neighbor as himself. (With a preacher as a father, he was well-grounded in theology, but not made proud or arrogant or holier-than-thou by it.) He believed in social justice. Everyone who knew him or even just saw him from a stage at a convention felt "beloved".
He was the rarest of all human beings and he did have a ministry: it was all of us who remember him on this day with affection and the yearning to tell him, once again, "Happy Birthday. De!"!