Heartbroken John Travolta paid a touching tribute to his “beautiful” wife Kelly Preston, who has died of breast cancer at the age of 57.
The movie actress and mum to Ella, 20, and Ben, nine, passed away on Sunday – two months before the couple’s 29th wedding anniversary.
John, 66, wrote on Instagram : “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer.
“She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many. Kelly’s love and life will always be remembered.”
It is the second tragedy for the family. Kelly, who had chosen not to disclose her illness, and John had lost their son Jett at the age of 16 following a seizure in 2009.
His Grease co-star Olivia Newton-John, who has breast cancer, was among stars who spoke movingly of Kelly.
But one of the most poignant tributes was from daughter Ella, who said: “I have never met anyone as courageous, strong, beautiful and loving as you.
“Anyone who is lucky enough to have known you or to have ever been in your presence will agree that you have a glow and a light that never ceases to shine.
“Thank you for being there for me no matter what... I love you so much, mama.”
The star counted some of Hollywood’s most famous men among her past loves and had a CV boasting smash-hit movies.
But her life was marred by tragedy at an early age.
Kelly, who was born Kelly Smith in Honolulu, Hawaii, was just three when her dad drowned.
She was adopted by her government official stepdad and spent her childhood in Iraq, then Australia, where she was spotted by a photographer when she was 16.
Kelly then began her career in adverts, TV and film, while studying at the University of Southern California.
She lost out on the lead in the controversial 1980 film Blue Lagoon to Brooke Shields, but landed a lead role in the 1985 comedy movie Mischief.
Roles in blockbuster films followed and included Twins with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1988, and the Tom Cruise smash-hit Jerry Maguire in 1996.
Arnie said yesterday: “Kelly Preston was extraordinary. I was lucky enough to star with her and direct her, and her talent was off the charts. She had such a big heart, she was a wonderful wife and mother.”
And her For The Love of the Game co-star Kevin Costner said: “We’ve lost a beautiful soul. Kelly will be missed tremendously.”
More recent movie roles include starring with Gwyneth Paltrow in View From The Top, teen romp What a Girl Wants and 2010’s The Last Song.
One of her final parts was her 2018 passion project, Gotti, with Travolta as the gangster, while she played his wife.
Among the men she counted as loves was her first husband, the Heat star Kevin Gage – later jailed for growing cannabis – who she divorced at the age of 24 in 1987 after a two-year marriage.
In 1989, she first met John, when she had a part in his spy movie The Experts. At the time he raved: “She definitely has leading lady potential. All of this is her entryway into the big time.”
At the time she was living with boyfriend George Clooney, and their pot-bellied pig Max. They met after their shared agent invited them to a party.
“He gave me a ride on his Harley, and I was hooked,” Kelly once said.
George, then working on US sitcom Roseanne, was smitten too. “It’s pretty serious,” he said. “We bought this house together, and we have the pig.”
But love fizzled and she started dating Charlie Sheen. They were together just a year but already engaged when in 1990 Kelly needed hospital treatment for a gunshot wound to her arm.
They both said she was hit when she picked up his jeans from the bathroom floor, the gun fell out the pocket and accidentally went off. By the next year she would be married to John when two months pregnant with their son Jett.
Both scientologists,they were hitched in Paris in September 1991 by a scientologist minister, followed by a second ceremony on Florida’s Daytona Beach.
Once asked if it was love at first sight, Kelly romantically replied: “Kinda.”
Jett was 15 months old when he became severely ill and was later diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome, a rare inflammatory condition. He suffered from developmental problems and seizures before his premature death.
He died after it is thought he hit his head on a bathtub during a fit at their Bahamas holiday home. John called it “the worst thing to happen in my life”.
Kelly said of the tragedy: “Everybody grieves in their own way. I felt at times like I was drowning. It felt like a sea of wet blankets.”
The following year, in 2010, she became pregnant with their son Ben, bringing new joy for her and John.
Kelly always firmly stood by her man even following allegations about his sexuality, which the Saturday Night Fever star has always strenuously denied.
Days after one story broke she went with him to the LA premiere of his latest film, where they kissed for photograghers on the red carpet.
In 2018, she raved about their relationship, saying: “The secret is keeping it fresh, changing together and to keep it fun.
“It doesn’t just come easy. We’re in love with each other.”
It was that support that helped John through so much grief.
His first love, actress Diana Hyland, died in his arms in 1977, also from breast cancer.
And Olivia Newton-John, who has spoken of her own cancer fight, said in a tribute: “Kelly Preston was a radiant, warm and gentle spirit – a loving, devoted wife, mother and sweet friend. My heart breaks for John, Ella and Ben.”
As Kelly’s own lost battle with cancer is made public, what is now her last anniversary message to John, sent last September, takes on new poignancy.
She wrote: “To my dearest Johnny, the most wonderful man I know.
“You have given me hope when I have felt lost, loved me patiently and unconditionally… shared the most beautiful highs and at times low... I know I will always be OK no matter what happens… I love you forever and completely.”
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