courtesy of JOHN SAMPAS
In life, he constantly worried about making ends meet.   In death, companies traded on his name.

He was married, had been for three years, to Stella Sampas Kerouac.   She was his third wife.   By his second wife, Joan Haverty, he fathered his only child, Jan, whom he disowned.   He abandoned Joan while she was pregnant, while he wrote ON THE ROAD.

Kerouac had few possessions, though he was a pack rat who saved a mountain of personal letters, manuscripts and books.   His estate was valued in court papers at less than $30,000.00, the main asset a three bedroom home on 10th Avenue N. that he shared with Stella and his ailing mother, Gabrielle.  

Kerouac wanted what little he owned to go to her.   If his mother died, Kerouac wanted everything to go to his nephew, Paul, stationed at an Air Force Base in Alaska.

Bryson scheduled his second meeting with Kerouac at 7:30 in the morning.   He figured the early hour would assure Kerouac's sobriety.   "He was happy", Bryson said.   "But he came back straight as an arrow".  

About a month later, Oct. 20, 1969, Kerouac wrote Paul to tell him he had put him in his will.   The day he wrote the letter he was admitted to St. Anthony's Hospital, vomiting blood.

The next day he was dead.   The cause: massive abdominal hemorrhaging, brought on by years of alcohol abuse.   He was 47.

These 33 years later, the battle over Kerouac's estate and literary archive lingers in Pinellas circuit court, the stakes rising as as the author's iconic status returned with the years.

The combatants are like characters out of a Kerouac novel: the hard drinking daughter who kept the cork from the liquor bottle her father drank from when finally they met; the brother-in-law whose family owned one of Kerouac's favorite strip joints and now control's the writer's work with an iron hand; and Kerouac's closest living relative, a penniless nephew who lives out of a pick-up truck parked at a garbage dump.

JAN KEROUAC

His only child.   Died in 1996.   He disowned her.   Her lawsuit, filed in 1994, sought to have Gabrielle's will thrown out on grounds it was forged.

GABRIELLE KEROUAC

His mother.   Died in 1973, four years after her son.   Willed her estate, including Kerouac's literary archive, to his third wife, Stella.


STELLA SAMPAS KEROUAC

His third wife, here with him in 1966.   Died in 1990.   Willed her estate, including her husband's literary archive, to two brothers and a sister.


JOHN SAMPAS

Stella's youngest sibling, 70.   Here, with Kerouac in 1966.   Legal representative of the family, controls the Kerouac archives.


PAUL BLAKE JR.

His nephew, 54, here with Jan in 1995.   Now homeless in Sacramento, California, pressing lawsuit to have Gabrielle's will thrown out as a forgery.   Wants a share of uncle's estate...


GERALD NICOSIA

Biographer, 52.   Accuses John Sampas of selling off pieces of Kerouac archive; Sampas accuses him of trying to wrest control of the estate for personal gain.



"Mother, cut my throat"   Kerouac, on the eve of his departure to like in St. Petersburg.

For those who might rhapsodize about Kerouac choosing St. Petersburg for the final years of his life, he didn't want to come here.

His mother , to whom Kerouac displayed unerring devotion, wanted to leave the cold of their home in Lowell, north of Boston.   His wife, Stella, wanted to get him away from his drinking buddies.

The story goes that Kerouac disappeared on the eve of his move here in 1964.   They found him two days later, sleeping it off in a field.

Kerouac bought the home on 10th Avenue North, a few miles from downtown.   So endeared was he with his new surroundings, he called it "Salt Petersburg" "the town of the newly wed and the living dead".   He said it was "a good place to come to die".  

Not that life was all gloom.   He enjoyed minor-league baseball and the wind rustling the branches of the Georgia pine in his front yard.

He had no Florida driver's license, but friends helped.   He was a regular in Tampa at the Wild Boar on Nebraska Avenue.   In Treasure Island at the Shipwreck.  

Near the end, the writer Richard Hill visited.   Kerouac sipped scotch from a pill bottle and spewed right-wing politics.

"He knew he was going to die soon.   The doctor had told him his liver was nearly gone", Hill wrote.   "He talked about his will.   He read and reread his genealogy and spoke much of the Kerouac family tradition and his boyhood home in Lowell"

On the eve of his death, in a letter to his nephew, Paul Blake Jr., Kerouac spelled out why he left Stella out of his will:   "I just wanted to leave my 'estate'... to someone directly connected with the last remaining drop of my direct blood line...and not to leave a ding-blasted f-----g----thing to my wife's one hundred Greek relatives.   I also plan to divorce or have her marriage to me annulled".

Though Kerouac left nothing to Stella, Florida law assured her one third of his estate.   Not that there was much of it.   Kerouac's popularity was at low ebb.   In the age of the Beatles, Beat was uncool.

Kerouac's mother died four years later.   She left everything to Stella, who died 17 years after that, in 1990.   She left all Kerouac's literary materials to two brothers and a sister.   The younger brother, John Sampas, eventually headed the estate.   Nowhere in all this was Kerouac's nephew.