As an act of disbelief, plumber Tony Kelly marched across the street from the house where he was working and knocked on a door. He had been told by some of his co-workers that he was working right across from where boxing legend Muhammad Ali lives.
Said Kelly, "I thought it was a wind-up, so I decided to call their bluff. I knocked on the door and Ali's wife Yolanda answered."
Realizing it wasn't a joke and being a huge Ali fan, Kelly was quick to make the most of the unexpected opportunity.
"I just asked would it be possible for one of his greatest fans from Ireland to meet him. "She said 'Of course' and invited me in and there [was Ali] sitting in the living room."
Imagine one minute working on a set of busted pipes and the next, you're in the living room of one of your idols. It was a thrilling experience for the Irishman.
Tony Kelly had moved to Kentucky from Ireland after marrying his wife, Megan, in 2012. He was a big fan of Ali, whose roots many Americans don't know can be traced to the "Emerald Isle". Even though he was initially skeptical, he wasn't going to pass on the potential opportunity. Thanks to his boldness, Kelly was able to wish Ali a happy 72nd birthday.
The great Muhammad Ali celebrating his birthday three days ago, happy birthday again champ! pic.twitter.com/jIM1w2fvOt
— Stefan Dent (@Dentyy) January 20, 2014
Kelly kept the visit brief out of respect for the Alis. That and matter the busted pipes across the street that he had been working on.
Before he went, Kelly was able to take a photo with his hero.
"I was star struck," Kelly said of his experience. "It was just great to meet him. I shook his hand. He posed for a couple pictures with me. It's very cool," Kelly said. "Just everything about him, his attitude and way it changed the sport. The guy is a legend and all the work he's done for humanity as well."
This heartwarming story of meeting one's idol goes to show that you never know how a job, no matter how unglamorous, could bring you in touch with your favorite celebrities.
Image via Lauretta Heckstall