Essentially, he followed in his father's footsteps. His old man, Emmett Kelly Sr., was a famous clown in his own time, even made a few movies; played a homicidal clown in the 1951 detective picture, The Fat Man, and played himself in Cecil B. DeMille's epic circus flick, (and 1952 Best Picture Oscar winner) The Greatest Show On Earth. A massive rift occurred between the two when Junior went pro and adopted his father's clown persona, "Weary Willie." (It is an ancient circus tradition that you never, ever steal another man's makeup.) It was a rift that apparently was never completely healed.
Kelly Jr. had his own circus when he retired from clowning in 2004, and he bought this little house in Tombstone. It sits on a hillside overlooking the town, on the road out to where the silver was being mined, back in the day. The house itself has a bit of a history, aside from the Kelly connection. It was built in the 1880s for a mine superintendent. In 1902, the man's wife and daughter were murdered in the living room by a madman, a crazy miner who worked for the superintendent. As far as I can research it, the killer was never apprehended.
Emmett Kelly Jr. died of pneumonia on November 29, 2006 in the hospital in Sierra Vista, 20 miles or so from Tombstone. He was 83. He was in the Navy once, and he's buried in the Veteran's Cemetery on the grounds at Fort Huachuca.
Grim little postscript: In 1979, Kelly's son Paul was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder in San Diego, California. It was a classic case of schizophrenic dual-personality. His murderous alter ego: a killer clown. Seriously. (Now doing 25-to-life in San Quentin... )
And on a more whimsical note: A Tombstone pal of mine went to a party at Emmett Kelly's house one time. He told me that he mainly remembered Kelly sitting in a chair in the corner, an old man surrounded by friends, an oxygen bottle at his side and a cannula in his nose, a cigarette in one hand... That, and a story Kelly told about his belief that the place was haunted.
Sometimes, he said, when you're sitting out on the porch you'll be pelted with pebbles. Pebbles. A gentle rain of itty-bitty rocks that falls at you out of the sky. It seemed more mischievous than anything else, the old man thought, like it was maybe a visit from that little girl from long ago, the mine superintendent's daughter...