I've asked a question of Leonard Nimoy from an audience; I've had one-on-one in-person conversations with James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Grace Lee Whitney; and once had a telephone conversation with William Shatner. Gene Roddenberry came over and introduced himself to me to ease a potentially awkward social situation and graciously keep me from embarrassment. But I never met DeForest Kelley.
Yet as much as I love them all, and I do, he was the one I loved most.
I once tried to describe my melancholy and depression to my physician, and I started to cry as I talked about the end of the movie Galaxy Quest, and I realized that what I really wanted more than almost anything, had wanted for almost thirty years, as much as I enjoyed watching them, wasn't a series of Star Trek movies, and wasn't even Star Trek: The Next Generation and the series' which followed it. What I wanted, had always wanted, was for the original cast to be able to make weekly episodes of Star Trek again, and for De Kelley to still be alive, damn it!
I realize that sounds goofy, but I've been watching Star Trek since I was eleven. I'm the guy in the final panel of the 1976 Mad Magazine musical Star Trek parody who grows from childhood to old age while watching his un-aging heroes on a succession of more and more modern television screens. I could see the future truth of it the moment I first read it.
Why do I love him so? The book shines with his decency and generosity, but to sum it up in one story is this: there is an account of how his wife, Carolyn, was in the hospital for a dislocated hip. He was walking through a corridor heading for a smoking area when he came upon a little boy, probably scared, on a gurney waiting to be taken to surgery.
The book doesn't mention it, but I cannot help but imagine that the boy's eyes became as big as proverbial saucers as he recognized who was walking by, because De leaned down and said "Don't worry, if anything goes wrong, I'll be right here."
And suddenly everything was okay for that little boy, because Dr. McCoy was helping to take care of him.