Kelly Jo Dowd, a cancer-stricken mother whose dream of seeing
her teen daughter Dakoda play in an LPGA event was realized last
spring, has died. She was 42.
She spent years battling breast cancer, which her family said
spread to her bones and liver, and then to her brain in the final
months of her life. She died Thursday night at her home in Palm
Harbor, Fla., with her daughter and other relatives at her side.
"Kelly Jo didn't know how to quit," her husband, Mike Dowd,
said Friday. "It was inspiring. The nurses said her heart was at
160 beats a minute for the last day and a half. She was fighting.
That was Kelly Jo."
Her death came just over a year after seeing her daughter play
in the Ginn Open in Reunion, Fla., when Dakoda, then 13, and her
family went public with their story, even knowing Kelly Jo's death
was expected. Shortly before the tournament, the family was told
Kelly Jo would have only a few months to live.
"She'll die knowing that she was loved," Dakoda said in an
interview last year with The Associated Press.
Earlier this month, Dakoda, now 14, failed to advance in
qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open, clearly distracted by her
mother's rapidly failing health.
"It's been so hard," Dakoda said last month, "and my mom
fought even harder."
Dakoda Dowd, one of the nation's top-ranked junior golfers, was
invited to play in the 2006 tournament by Ginn Resorts president
and CEO Bobby Ginn, who lauded the Dowds Friday as "a special
family whose story touched a nation."
"Kelly Jo Dowd inspired us all with her strength, courage and
tireless efforts to educate both women and men about breast cancer,
the disease that would eventually take her life," Ginn said. "Her
zest for life and boundless enthusiasm in spite of her condition
lifted countless spirits and should serve as a reminder to focus on
what is truly important in life."
Dowd shot a 2-over par 74 on the first day, beating a number of
major-championship winners, then shot 82 in the second round and
missed the cut.
"I'm prouder today than I was yesterday that my daughter has
the courage and strength to play with these LPGA professionals,"
Kelly Jo said after that tournament. "And I feel great right now.
I feel great. My dream came true out here."
The Dowd family chose to tell their story with hopes that Kelly
Jo's plight -- she ignored a lump for several months before being
diagnosed with breast cancer -- would be a strong reminder that
women should be vigilant in doing self-exams and getting checked
"I did something pretty stupid," Kelly Jo said in a 2006
interview with the AP. "And the only way that I can let myself
feel better about it is if I know that people can learn from our
Plus, the family spent much time trying to raise money for
groups like MakingMemories.org, which grants wishes to people who
have been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Mike Dowd said
Friday that the family's fundraising quests will continue.
"We're not going to run away from this," he said. "We're
going to glorify her and do her proud."
A memorial service will be held Tuesday at Sylvan Abbey Funeral
Home in Clearwater, Fla.