Special to thefly35.com
Thursday, March 5, 2009
When his phone rang Thursday morning, Fly had no idea the stunning news that he would soon hear.
On the phone was Howard Jackson, his longtime friend and basketball teammate at Austin-Peay in the early 1970s.
Jackson had terrible news: their former coach, Lake Kelly, died during the night.
“I don’t know what to do, cry or what,” Fly said about an hour after getting Jackson’s call. “I’m just sitting at home in a daze.”
By the afternoon, Fly was still trying to come to grips with the news of Kelly’s death.
They had been reunited a month earlier when Austin Peay retired Fly’s No. 35 jersey in Clarksville, Tenn. Lake and his wife, Marti, spent several days visiting with Fly and former teammates. It was a wonderful, joyous time.
When Fly got ready to leave for New York City, he collapsed at the Nashville airport and was taken to The Summit Hospital in Hermitage. Lake and Marti Kelly, who were staying with their daughter, son and grandchildren in Franklin, spent much of the next four days with Fly in his hospital room as he recovered from fatigue and what was diagnosed as a virus.
“When I was laying in the hospital bed, it gave us time to talk,” Fly said. “It was like a father-son thing. This is unbelievable. He meant the world to me.”
It was about a month ago, Feb. 12, 2009, when Lake and Marti Kelly last saw Fly at the hospital. Fly left that night and flew back to New York City.
“I guess God put us together again because He knew Coach Kelly wouldn’t be with us much longer,” Fly said. “God put us together again after 35 years.”
Their time together in Clarksville in the early 1970s will live forever, as will their time together in early February of 2009.
“Coach Kelly was a big part of my life,” Fly said. “I came to Clarksville to play for Austin Peay, and he took me in like a parent. Look what happened to me (after) the retirement. He and Mrs. Kelly were there like they were my parents.”