From Cheers to Frasier, Kelsey Grammer has become one of the most recognizable and endearing actors in pop culture. Playing Dr. Frasier Crane on both of those classic sitcoms, he was in the spotlight for 20 straight years. He may be known for his brilliantly callous character, but behind the scenes, Kelsey could not be more sympathetic.
Starting as a young teenager, Kelsey began facing an onslaught of death and tragedy in his family. Before he even reached his thirties, the lives of his father, sister, and two brothers were horrifically cut short. Despite the seemingly relentless dark cloud, Kelsey never suppressed his spirit, and he went on to be the star we know and love today.
To really understand the degree of his enduring strength, you need to understand just how tragic his early life was.
His father was murdered in cold blood
Kelsey's parents divorced when he was 2 years old, and he went to live with his mother and grandfather. During that time, his father, Frank Grammer, was living with a new wife, Elizabeth, when something shocking happened. A unrelated man named Arthur B. Niles came up to the driveway of the Grammer residence and set the family car on fire. Frank ran outside to chase off the arsonist, but Niles responded by shooting him to death.
In the trial, Elizabeth testified that she was forced to drag her husband's lifeless body away from Niles, who threatened to run him over with his car. According to a 1993 article in People, Niles was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Kelsey was only 13 years old when his father passed away.
His sister was raped and murdered
Only seven years later, another family tragedy struck in a sickeningly grisly manner. Kelsey's only sister Karen, who was 18 years old at this time, was waiting for her boyfriend outside the Red Lobster where she worked. A gang of murderers on a killing spree suddenly peeled in to rob the restaurant. Though they left with no money, they feared that Karen could identify them, so they abducted her.
The group of three viciously raped her for four hours in their apartment. Afterwards, they convinced her that they would bring her home, so they put a cloth over her head to start the trek. With a total lack of human compassion, one of the captors, Freddie Lee Glenn, stabbed her in the head and neck and left her for dead in a trailer park before driving away.
In a stunning act of determination, a mortally wounded Karen crawled to one of the trailers to try to ring the doorbell. Sadly, no one was home, and she died on the back porch. At 20 years old, Kelsey had to identify his sister's body.
In a letter, Kelsey revealed how much the murder crushed him:
"She was my best friend and the best person I knew. . . . I loved my sister, Karen. I miss her. I miss her in my bones. I was her big brother. I was supposed to protect her—I could not. I have never gotten over it. . . . It very nearly destroyed me."
To honor his slain sister, he gave the middle name "Karen" to his daughter, Spencer Grammer.
Another gruesome fate for his half-brothers
It seems that fate cruelly decided this wasn't enough misfortune to befall one person; Kelsey would be attending another family funeral only five years after the death of his sister. His half-brothers, Stephen and Billy, were scuba diving off the coast of St. Thomas when Billy never came to the surface. Stephen presumably panicked and dove back down to search for his twin, but he too died after ascending to the surface improperly. To make matters even more gruesome, their mother is convinced Billy was eaten by sharks.
But he didn't let any of this break him
The most astounding thing to come out of all these deaths is not the unreal amount of tragedy, but Kelsey's ability to cope and prosper. He's admitted to how painful these harsh realities felt, especially at such a young age, but he has refused to let bitterness consume him. In fact, he's even forgiven his sister's killer when faced with Glenn's parole hearing in 2014:
"I accept your apology. I forgive you. However, I cannot give your release my endorsement."
It takes a big man to stare a killer in the face and offer forgiveness, and I really respect the choice to not condone him getting parole. For someone who has endured so much hardship, it's downright commendable that Kelsey remains the impressive person he is.
Thank you for hanging in there, Kelsey. We may be on the verge of tears right now, but we owe you way more laughs.