R.I.P. Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr.

2 12 2008

RSSO15

You’re probably asking, “Who?” Kelly Tripplehorn was an intern for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and got his fifteen minutes of internet fame by sending a very nasty email (from his tripplehorny@aol.com email addy, natch) to a fellow intern with whom he had a brief relationship.

“Michele, I am sorry, I don’t care how big of a sadistic fucked up crush you have on me but people like me simply don’t date people like you.”  Is a typical line from the infamous email that got Tripplehorn dismissed from his internship.

In the years since, Tripplehorn founded a ministry, and, we can hope and assume, outgrew his uppity asshole stage. But given the air of self-importance he once had, it’s a bit surprising to me that Mr. Tripplehorn took his own life over the weekend. (I stumbled upon this while surfing the internet this morning–I can’t recall now where)

Two things strike me here…first: that many of the funny stories, pictures, etc. that we all pass from inbox to inbox often have REAL people behind them. And second, it’s remarkable how one instance or act in a person’s life can define, haunt, or follow them.

Thanks to a commenter, we have Tripplehorn’s response to the media hype around the email:I regret that I sent the email, and I did send an apology less than a week after my hate letter. However, since it was from one of the highest-ranking Senator’s office in Washington, and it was during the summer doldrums, the letter ended up taking a life of its own. So much so that I found my name and picture in the media including such outlets as CNN, The Washington Post, and even various publications overseas.

This seminal event humbled me in ways that I did not think were possible. Christ needed to break me down before he was able to build me up again, and he certainly did a glorious job of reducing me to nothing. Here, I learned the lesson of the destructive power of pride and I will never forget it as long as I live.

The second great lesson Christ gave me was that if the media could use me to spread my message of hate throughout the world, then there is no reason why I could not use same media to spread a message of Christ’s love throughout the world.”

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51 responses

2 12 2008
Big Hair Envy

We have a family member who is Bipolar. To her, PKT, Jr.’s email would sound perfectly logical. It is SO sad because there is no way to predict when they will begin that downward spiral. It becomes one big vicious cycle.

May I be ugly for a moment?
UVA grad? Figures.

9 07 2009
alex

the girl he broke up with probably went to jmu or tech. that would make even more sense, hence the assumption that she would fail on her own.

9 07 2009
alex

I would say the fact that he was a republican was way more telling. Think about this guy every time a republican tries to call a liberal an “elitist”

2 12 2008
Alan

He killed himself because of that email? Sounds like someone needed to relax a little bit. Wound up a little too tightly…

26 10 2011
David Tripplehorn

That’s my cousin u asshole, I looked him up and found that so shut the fuck up, this scarred our family for life so don’t say anything

25 07 2013
Guillermo

LOL! Your cousin sucks.

2 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

No, no…I don’t think that. He just became “famous” because that email was in every inbox five years ago or so. I think he must have had something going on even then…

2 12 2008
Woody

One of my hobbies is genealogy. So I am amazed at the things that “stick” to certain individuals. Makes you think about the things you want to be your legacy!

2 12 2008
Olivia

A man has left this world and you people are talking about where he graduated from and the fact that he was “Wound up a little too tightly…” (good one Alan…). Mental disorders are extremely serious and nothing to poke fun at. He has a family, a mother, a father, a brother, and a sister. Let’s see one of your family members go down a rough road and have everyone talk about where he graduated from or that he “needed to relax” (again Alan, good one). No one should speak ill of those who have passed, or those who can not defend themselves.

I think the whole situation is horribly sad, and something society should look at. If only in the manner that mental disorders need to be studied and researched more so these unfortunate diseases do not claim anymore valuable lives. Every life has value.

10 10 2012
mvg1112

Thanks for saying this Olivia! Very sad situation.

2 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Olivia…thank you for dropping by. Please don’t take offense…there are a few of us around here that try to find a laugh in ANYTHING. I can vouch for the commenters up to this point and assure you that none of them would disrespect those who have passed. I fully agree with you that mental disorders need more study, and that most of us would be well served by educating ourselves on them…if for no other reason than it might allow us to answer a loved ones call for help.

2 12 2008
Big Hair Envy

I apologize if my comment was offensive to anyone. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a severe case of bipolar disorder in our family right now, and the only way to keep from crying is to laugh. It takes the edge off.

2 12 2008
cuteasasa

VV – I understand your point. Everything is amplified now. Mistakes that may have embarrassed my friends in front of their high school class of 95 people are now around the world in a day. The problem is that kids are doing these things at the time in their live when they believe they are made of telflon and nothing will stick to them. Add to that mix the ones who have actual mental health issues and it becomes a very slippery slope. The only up side I can see is that just in the window of time between this man’s arrogant email (sorry, but mental illness aside, what a cocky little snot he was!) and his death, the issue of bi-polar mental illness has become much more known and understood. Granted, there’s a long way to go but I think we are moving in the right direction. Now we just need to get kids to tuck their boobs and wieners back in their clothes and stop sending pictures of them to all their friends until they are at least 21 and old enough to be responsible for such foolishness.

2 12 2008
Woody

I agree with BHE – better to laugh than cry. It’s what keeps us sane.

2 12 2008
Horatio

Well, I found this site because I Googled PKT Jr.’s name. Why? Because one of my best friends just left the funeral and called me to tell me about it. They were classmates at Westminster in Dallas. Our discussion included Kelly’s non-profit organization so I thought I’d search for it. . . this is how I learned of the email scandal from so many years ago.

I guess we should all know that nothing happens in a vacuum. The family and friends of the deceased could easily see these comments. I respect the original post’s content and most of the comments – the desire to link humanity with Internet memes is commendable.

I wonder how many of us have ever made a mistake or a rash action – especially when we were 20 years old – and have been saved the humiliation of having a record of that lapse be public. In the last five minutes on Google, I’ve seen incredible assumptions drawn about Kelly’s character, his family, and his lifestyle all from a few facts – a blurry snapshot into one moment out of the rest of his life.

I didn’t know Kelly, but I can say that I doubt this email had any part in the sad events of last weekend. Suicide is rarely a rational decision. Who knows what was going on in this young man’s mind at such a desperate moment. He seemed to have everything to live for. . . so sad.

I pray for his parents and siblings that he left behind, and and thank God that I do not suffer bipolar disorder. What a frightening thing that must be.

Again – this is not to chastise, but rather to support the author’s original sentiment that there are real lives effected every time we encounter an Internet fad.

25 07 2013
Guillermo

Shut up.

2 12 2008
Horatio

Here is a link to Kelly’s organization. He addresses the email scandal on the front page as part of his testimony:
http://i53network.org/Home_Page.html

2 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Horatio…you have my sympathy on the loss of your friend…thank you for stopping by and for the link to his site. I’ve been turning over in my head all day how many of those “instances” I can think of in my own life that would, by themselves, paint me in a light totally unlike the sum of my character…I imagine we all have a handful of those.

Cuteasasa…well said!

Woody–laughter really is the best medicine!

2 12 2008
Jason

I’ve also dealth extensively with mental illness in my family, including bipolar disorder. Your commenters are correct, there is no making sense of any of it. He made some big mistakes, most likely driven by his mental illness, unaware.

I think it’s weird that this whole thing became such a huge media event. It angers me. With all of the things going on in the world, why such a big focus on the emails he sent? (This not being directed to my bff at Vinyl Village!) I think people should be able to blog about whatever they want to blog about (within legal limits) but the mainstream media really needs to reevaluate it’s choices!

2 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Jason, I find myself asking that a lot. Why are Britney’s shenanigans front page at mainstream news sources? Who cares what, or who, Paris Hilton is doing? And while I can understand people forwarding this sort of thing around for a chuckle or what have you, it isn’t NEWS unless someone in office is the author, as far as Im concerned.

2 12 2008
Compassionate

Well, as a family member of Kelly’s I’m certainly glad I came upon this so I could at least try to represent a different view point. Thank you Olivia for your compassion. I hope the rest of you have lived blemish-free, perfect, and spotless lives. I thank God that I’m not remembered for one of the many stupid things I did in college. He did not end his life because of the email but suffered from a tragic disease. AND, he went on to turn his life around as a result of the scandal. He was a caring, intelligent, funny, and sweet young man who dearly loved his family and friends and was always there for them. Please try and respect a family that is going through a difficult time to say the least.

25 07 2013
Guillermo

LOL! Are you a comedian?

3 12 2008
Funky

RIP Kelly

I knew him, in fact he used to be my personal trainer in high school. He was a little eccentric at that time, but not like he was recently. He had a good heart, and he was a friend.

I thought I saw him for a moment at breakfast on Sunday before I knew he took his life, and I guiltily thought to myself that it was a shame that he probably wouldn’t show his face around here anymore after the email.

I lost my brother from suicide, he was bipolar also (or maybe something else, docs aren’t really good at diagnosing these things still.) When I heard about the suicide this week I could only think of the similarities between him and my brother that started them down their spiraling path of self destruction. They both had a traumatizing event in their early twenties that was the trigger, and afterward they both became extremely devout Christians, so much so that it was an unhealthy obsession that defined the latter part of their lives. Similar to the many other things that people like this become obsessed with throughout their life. I think that they thought they could better serve the Lord by being with him; they didn’t know how to exist anymore without being with him.

It is a very sad disease, and from my experience there should be more research because usually it isn’t diagnosed until it is too late. Also the medicine isn’t very effective.

My prayers will be with Kelly’s family

3 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Compassionate and Funky, thank you both for lending your thoughts, and please accept our condolensces on the loss of your loved one.

Compassionate, the whole point of this post was to reflect on how, especially in this age where “information” is so available, how easily one act can follow a person–it was certainly not to impune Mr. Tripplehorn.

Lucky, and rare, is the person who has not been touched by mental illness in some way.

Again, thank you both for your words.

3 12 2008
Liz

This last summer we lost a friend to suicide and he was not the type you would ever expect to do such a thing. He wasn’t drunk or bipolar or anything. We have all tried to deal with this but it’s been hard, since we’ve had nothing we could actually *blame* his suicide on.

This guy was as good looking as it gets, had more money than he knew what to do with, had three lovely daughters, and so much to live for. He went to his office that morning, got all of his important papers ready, then calmly blew his brains all over the wall of his office. He was tired of dealing with life and being alone. I simply don’t understand that. However, I’m glad it wasn’t plastered all over the internet. His daughters would have been deeply hurt by that & I think they’ve been through enough.

Now, I’m just mad at him for being a selfish jerk. See? I really wish he’d had a mental disorder to blame it on, but he was perfectly sane & sober. So, I guess you just never know what goes through people’s minds. I’m sure he was thinking we’d all be better off without him, but we’re not…

3 12 2008
Wendy

Okay, I didn’t know Mr. Tripplehorn or anything about him until I read your post. The saddest part of this, to me, is that his email didn’t strike me as being written by someone who was mentally ill but by someone who was, as he said, in the middle of the the “summer doldrums” and stuck in an office for most of the day, and fed up with the unwelcome advances of a co-worker. The fact that the he lost his job and the media latched onto it just to fill their own dead space is the disgraceful part. I agree with your commenter Jason, the media’s reaction to this whole thing makes me angry.

Had I been a friend or co-worker of Mr. Tripplehorn and he showed me the email, I would have undoubtedly laughed at it and told him I loved it. Does that make me sick? Sitting in an office in front of a computer all day can give you a false feelig of isolation, and obviously he never dreamed his little email would become exploited and used for entertainment purposes by the so-called serious media. Was he without friends to take his side and help ease some of his humiliation over this? And what about this girl he wrote the email to, has she accepted the ugly part she played in this tragic horror show?

3 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

Liz, I’ve lost two of the cousins I was closest to as a child to suicide–neither chronically mentally ill, but just situationally depressed (near as I know anyway). Who among us hasnt had a few times in their life where we thought it just couldnt get any worse? But it always gets better…if you just hang on.

Wendy…the losing of the job had me scratching my head too….the email addresses are shown all over the web, and clearly they were PERSONAL ones, not work related. You’re right–we have to wonder what her place in this was.

3 12 2008
J

Thank you for your kindness and decency regarding Kelly’s death. It’s more than most other bloggers were willing to do. It is amazing how they have truly proved themselves to be the bigger ass, by not respecting Kelly’s family and friends and removing their hateful blogs during these traumatic turn of events. Kelly was a good man, he loved the Lord, and his passion and kindness will be truly missed.

3 12 2008
trailerparkbarbie

How very sad! But, that was a great quote.
It’s not funny that he’s dead but that doesn’t change the fact that some of the stuff that he said IS funny.

3 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

J–you’re certainly welcome. I’ve seen some of the other blogs out there and been a little shocked by the reactions…

TPB–like they said in “Steel Magnolias”–laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.

3 12 2008
Tammy

I have written many obnoxious e-mails in my day. I wish I had them now. I would blog them. I’m all about self-deprecating humor these days – recalling the times I was indeed, a young, stupid, ass.

Now I’m just an old, stupid, ass.

3 12 2008
blondgirl

Kelly was a light that many got to experience, including myself. Yesterday was hard but we must not forget the fight that Kelly passionately pursued for the last 5+ years. If you are questioning your FAITH, do not have FAITH, feel as if there is more to LIFE in this world, or even know our Lord and Savior but have questions or need your cup FILLED, I encourage you to seek out TRUTH. Please check out this page that Kelly created himself. It is well worth your time.
http://i53network.org/Outstanding_Resources.html

go on, dig in.

3 12 2008
friend

Kelly was a wonderful man. It is a complete shame that anyone would judge him both from the email and in his death. He wouldn’t judge you. He was passionate and caring and so very intelligent. The email turned his life around 180 degrees. He became completely passionate about Christ. It was all he lived for. Kelly is an inspiration. He was so intelligent and could have gone on to make lots of money and puruse whatever career he wanted, but he was so filled with Christ’s love that he dedicated the past 5 years of his life to it. Pray for his family and all of his friends who were left behind and are greatly missing him.

3 12 2008
FriendofKelly

As someone who considered Kelly a dear friend, I have been appalled at some of the terrible things said about Kelly on the internet. It is true that he made a mistake 5 years ago and sent a nasty email. But who hasn’t said something that was later regretted? Who hasn’t had a moment of arrogance? Kelly made the same sort of mistake we have all made. He just did it in an e-mail.

Kelly made a mistake, and then did what most people are to proud to do: He apologized. And then even more importantly, he learned from his mistake. Visit i53.org to see how he was using faith to make the world a better place.

I was blessed to have him as a friend, and will miss him more than words can express.

***It would be wonderful if the bloggers who have these rude posts on their websites could remove them out of respect for Kelly’s family.

3 12 2008
The Vinyl Villager

For the three posters above…

I appreciate all of you weighing in, and as Ive said to the others who have stopped by–you have my thoughts in what I know is a very difficult time for you.

I fail to see where anyone here has judged him, though. The comments are overwhelmingly supportive, and most of them echo what you’ve all said. I’ve read some absolutely attrocious things about Kelly on other sites, and share your shock.

4 12 2008
Alan

I would like to extend my condolensces to Kelly’s family and his friends. I, in no way, meant any harm to him or his family. You are correct in saying that mental illness is a deadly disease and that is obvious by what happened here. I do not know anything about this story other than what VV has posted and didn’t really put much thought into my comment, so I can see that that was inappropriate. I work in an industry where I see tragedy like this all the time, so I have become a bit callous to these scenerios. But once again, please accept my sincere apologies and I will try to be a little more thoughtful about my comments from here on out!

-Alan

4 12 2008
FriendofKelly

Thanks for the response Alan. I should have been more specific, I wasn’t referring to the posts on this website. You have fostered a respectful discussion on your site. I was actually hoping that some of the posters/bloggers on other websites might see my request and take down their articles, or at least delete some of the responses that go too far. (I am an eternal optimist!)

There is a big difference between reporting a story and tearing a person to shreds. I think some of the bloggers out there don’t see the difference.

5 12 2008
Taylor

My faith in humanity reborn. After surfing through the internet and finding one after another of people who can critiscize a man who has died I felt as though the general understanding of the importance of life was gone in this world. Reading people call Kelly a “coward” and other things knowing he had passed is heart breaking becuase I know they will never fully understand how heartless and emotionless they must be to have that ability. Kelly truly took the experiences he had early on and applied them to serving the Lord and becoming a better person and making the World a better place.

To the Vinyl Villager, I fully agree with you. From what I can deduce from reading above is that this truly is a collection of sympathetic people you have here visiting your site and you should take pride in that. Almost everyone has seemed to be sympathetic and kind. I hope everyone takes a minute to notice the difference between these posts and ones on other sites and appreciate that difference. I know the people who posted in above didnt mean to attack you, I believe they felt comforted by the general positive nature of this forum as compared to others and just needed to vent.

Keep the Prayers coming for the Tripplehorn family and all his close friends.
God Bless,
T

8 12 2008
JFTW

While it is so nice that bloggers have softened since his death, I think it is so unfortunate that we as humans are not softer and more forgiving of someone while they are still with us. I did not know Kelly well but visited with him 2 years ago and was so impressed with what a kind gentle heart he had. I was in FTW when that e-mail surfaced it just took on a ridiculous life of it’s own as it did everywhere else. And what an impressive young man to take ownership and apologize over an e-mail of all things. Thank goodness no one was taping me when I was 20 yrs. old. I do think that the above blogger is right that he did not take his own life due to that incident.

It just pains me when I think of all the EGREGIOUS acts by people 10, 20, 30 years his senior who never take responsibility for, apologize or even admit to and certainly have not changed their ways….. (especially in D.C. where he was at the time).

My prayers and love to his family and friends – you will see him again one day.

9 12 2008
Mental P Mama

This is the first I have heard of this…such a tragedy. Kudos to you for having this wonderful exchange. My thoughts and prayers to his family and colleagues.

9 12 2008
Robert

I have never gone to a doctor to be diagnosed with any disorder.

I have been on the edge of suicide for 27 years. I’ve had a gun to my temple, my forehead, my throat; and have stood on the edge of the roof of an 11 story building. I realize what drives me there is the fear of, or realization of failure. What has kept me on this side of the edge is the harm it would do others.

I have deep sympathy for this guy’s family and loved ones. Those feelings are why I am still alive.

Suicide is a selfish and cowardice act. Regardless of how this guy was to his friends and family during his life, he cheapened it by the manner of his death.

Like I said, I’ve never been diagnosed. I would probably be tagged with one or more disorders. I don’t want an excuse. I want to maintain the responsibility to others that has kept me alive.

9 12 2008
Tammy

I left a flippant comment on this post earlier that doesn’t do justice to the ongoing discussion of this post.

I was a volunteer for a suicide prevention hotline for about a year. That hardly makes me an expert. But, what I took from that experience is that it’s not just the diagnosed mentally ill who contemplates or commits suicide. It can be anyone who is in the throes of an overwhelming moment of not being able to cope and makes an impulsive act. Not all of them are impulsive, some of them are carefully thought out. However, in the moment or contemplation of the suicide, the person is, without a doubt, mentally ill. A sane person recognizes the pain and grief it will inflict on others as Robert mentioned and that alone, stops most rational-thinking people from taking their own life.

I am impressed that Mr. Tripplehorn was a very dedicated Christian man and to me that speaks volumes. His mental illness had to have been in such a dark state, that despite his Christian beliefs and the condemnation taught by most Christian theologies that suicide is an ultimate sin of the soul – despite that, he chose suicide. He had to have been in complete agony, his own personal hell of mental illness. This is extremely sad. I can only guess that it might have been his faith and hope that kept him with his friends and loved ones for so long as he fought the dark side of his illness.

My condolences to those who knew him and loved him. I hope you find comfort in knowing that his personal torment is over.

9 12 2008
Goofy Deer

I think the cowardly act of suicide, or just being to scared of life is due so many times to a bad diet and a simple twist of fate

10 12 2008
stogirly

I feel sorry for his family and friends who had to first help him with the e-mail and are now going through the pain of losing him. From the posts on this blog he sounded like a nice young man with an unfortunate disease. Mental illness runs in my family and I understand the terrible impact it can have on not only the victum of the disease, but everyone that loves them.

11 12 2008
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[…] R.I.P. Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr. You’re probably asking, “Who?” Kelly Tripplehorn was an intern for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and […] […]

15 01 2009
Terri

What strikes me is how kind and non-judgmental the intelligent people are, and how nasty the morons are.

But the morons will never grasp the fact that their little existence is clouded in ignorance.

I never heard of Kelly until I went to http://www.snopes.com Ultimately, I believe that I will meet a loving and spunky individual in heaven– and I bet his friend Michele, who forgave him long ago, will also be laughing with him…

Terri

19 01 2009
Victoria

I knew Kelly in college (I was a member of the atheist/agnostic club, referred to as one of the “lost” on his website) and recently did a search for him and this was one of the first sites that came up. It’s hard to put into words how shocked I am that he killed himself. After college all I heard from him was that he founded his own ministry and was pursuing a doctorate in religious studies. We never even knew about the Senate email until after he graduated (I was a year behind him). RIP Kelly, indeed.

3 03 2009
clandesdun

Suicide is not a cowardly act. It is an act of hopelessness. Buried under the avalanche of hopelessness, not seeming to be able to get right, not seeming able to stop the emotional pain he lived with after years and years of struggling with it my best friend, my brother shot himself while on the phone with me. Having had a birds eye seat I can tell you, it is not an act of cowardliness nor of selfishness but of complete and utter despair. The next morning, full of fear and feeling angry with him for having saddled me with this memory for life I realized that I was grateful he was not alone at that terrible moment and if my being there for him comforted him then it was something I was willing to freely give because after all, I loved him. I miss you brother.

31 07 2009
erwa

Wow, clandesdun, I can’t even imagine how painful that experience must have been for you. And the way that you chose to think of the experience as a way you were there for your loved one in the moment of his greatest despair gave me goosebumps. You are a truly amazing person.

31 07 2009
erwa

While this discussion is overwhelmingly positive and compassionate, I’m a little troubled by the multiple comments that label suicide as cowardly or selfish. I can see how it may feel that way to those left behind, as the choice to end ones life leaves many in great pain. However, I can only think that it’s not just a simple, “Ah, well, this ain’t going to well so I think I’ll call it a day” and then ending their life.

As someone who has suffered from severe depression I have had a glimpse into the overwhelming pain and despair that feels absolutely insurmountable. No matter how many loved ones someone has, or how many good things they may have to live for, it’s a pretty simple equation: when the pain feels so great that you truly believe you can never get out from under it, the pain must end. If the person feels there are no other options, suicide then becomes the only option. It’s not a diss against their loved ones, it’s just a sad and desperate attempt to stop the pain by any means possible. Unfortunately for many, at some point, suicide begins to feel like the ONLY option for ending the pain.

If you’ve never felt on the brink of suicide yourself, count yourself lucky and admit that you may then not fully understand the many complex reasons that people end their lives. Please stop labeling people who take their own lives as selfish and cowardly as that is just cruel.

23 12 2009
Jerry Ertans

That email was nothing compared to the politically incorrect emails I and many others have sent to someone. What if a man wrote “stop being stuck up because your beauty will decline in the next 5 years according to biologists”. He might stand by such statements privately but they wouldn’t go over well publicly – and then he’d have to deny that he believes what scientists say?. We lose our desire to exercise free speech if a private email can be publicized so widely. What Tripplehorn said could just be passed off as extremely immature and heat of the moment. Besides, it sounds like Michele wasn’t exactly the greatest person if her behavior provoked this email.

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