Pat Kelly: A good friend and a better man

by Arnie, Bobby and Chris Lane

At least once in your life — if you’re lucky — someone comes along who turns out to be a true friend and an even better man. We found that person in Pat Kelly who was suddenly taken from us this past weekend when he succumbed to a massive heart attack at the age of 76. 

He’d been around our family for so many years that we can’t remember when our friendship with Pat started. But we sure remember all the things he did and all the good times we had together. 

He was there when Chris moved to Guntersville, he was there when Chris needed help with his guide service and he was there when any one of the three of us needed encouragement with our careers and our lives. He was just there, a true friend through thick and thin.

He was a pretty good bass angler, too. He fished a number of big tournaments over the years. We don’t have any accurate recollection of how he did with the fish, but we do remember that he was a hit with the other competitors. I think that was because he didn’t hold much back, and he was always willing to teach someone something, anything he knew about. There wasn’t a selfish bone in his body. 

The teaching part of his fishing was probably his strongest suit. He worked with a number of guys who are now earning a living with a rod and reel and, to an angler, they’ll all tell you what he told them and what he showed them made a positive difference in their careers. 

A lot of his teaching was by example. This is a tough business and if you expect to survive you’d better be as tough as your vocation. He understood that, perfectly. 

I remember we were fishing a tournament on Santee Cooper in South Carolina several years ago. The wind blew so hard that they brought us in, off the water. We were all sitting around playing cards when Arnie decided he needed to throw a few passes with a football. Pat decided he’d be the one to catch them. 

It turns out that Pat was a better angler than he was a wide receiver. He ripped his Achilles tendon in half. Note that we said in half, totally separated. We did not say torn or stretched. 

So anyway, he rubbed it for a while and then went to bed. The next morning he got up at dawn and fished all day. And when the day was over he drove all the way back home — he lived in Guntersville, Ala., at the time — by himself. Can you imagine? Guntersville is over 250 miles from Santee Cooper. And we’re not even talking about the pain. That thing had to hurt, bad.  

We’re going to miss him. He was one of the true joys in our lives. 

If you would like to help his family, there’s a page set up in his name, Captain Pat Kelly. Contributions will be greatly appreciated.