Family members say Knievel had ups, downs in Nevada
RENO – From visits to his mother in Reno to his spectacular crash at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Evil Knievel experienced both highs and lows in Nevada, family members say.
The motorcycle stuntman steadily increased the length of his jumps until, on New Year’s Day 1968, he was nearly killed when he jumped 150 feet across the fountains in front of Caesar’s Palace. He cleared the fountains but the crash landing put him in a coma for a month.
His son Robbie Knievel followed in his father’s daredevil footsteps and successfully completed the same jump in April 1989.
Evil Knievel died Friday at age 69.
“He loved Las Vegas. It was part of his spirit. Risk-taking and big things,” said his son, Kelly Knievel, of Las Vegas.
Evil Knievel returned to the fountain in 1999 to marry Krystal Kennedy. The couple split their time between Clearwater, Fla., and his hometown of Butte, Mont., but he always returned to Las Vegas a couple times a year, Kelly Knievel said.
He enjoyed gambling, golf and visiting old friends in Las Vegas, he said. Despite his fame, he ignored Strip hotels and stayed in his motor home outside other resorts.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of Evel’s passing,” Gary Selesner, Caesars Palace president, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He was a daredevil’s daredevil, and a gentleman with a heart of gold.”
To the north, Reno was a second home to Knievel while he grew up with his grandparents in Butte. His mother, whose maiden name was Ann Keough, moved to Reno after her divorce.
“He was here just about every summer and alternate holidays,” said his half sister, Loretta Young, 60, of Reno.
Knievel made the visits to Reno with his younger brother, Nic. His mother married again and had two more children, including Loretta Young. His mother lived in Reno until she died in 1985, and was buried in Butte.
“It was difficult for the boys to be uprooted from what they knew as home,” Young said. “The decision was that the boys would come here and visit a lot.”
In addition to daredevil stunts, Young said her half brother had a less dangerous hobby: painting. She has several pieces in her home, including an Indian warrior and a snowscape.
“He was a hell-raiser. But that’s nothing new,” she said.
In recent years, a plan to open an Evil Knievel museum in Las Vegas failed to get off the ground because he didn’t think the plans were grandiose enough to carry his name, Kelly Knievel said.