One December, the star for the top of the Conway family Christmas tree was missing from the box of ornaments, prompting comedian Tim Conway to spring into action. “He says, ‘Go get me a roll of toilet paper, glue and some scissors,’ ” daughter Kelly Conway tells Closer. “He took the toilet paper off the roll and glued an 8 x 10 photo of himself on it. He put it on the top of the tree and said, ‘I’m the star on top of the Christmas tree, so now we don’t need to find another one!’ ”

The famed Carol Burnett Show funnyman provided lots of laughter and the happiest of childhoods to Kelly and her five siblings. “My dad was just as funny, happy, smart and mischievous as you saw him on the show,” she says. “He dedicated a lot of time to keeping my brothers and I entertained.” But as Tim’s health began to fail in his 80s, Kelly found herself unexpectedly locked in a bitter legal battle with her stepmother over his care. In her new book, My Dad’s Funnier Than Your Dad: Growing Up With Tim Conway in the Funniest House in America, Kelly shares loving memories as well as her experiences during her dad’s difficult last year. “There were two girls that my dad loved: He loved his wife, and he loved me,” she says. “It’s sad the way things happened.”

Tim and his first wife, Kelly’s mother Mary Anne Dalton, raised their family out of the spotlight in Encino, California, but their home became locally famous for fun. “My dad would say, ‘Let’s have a swim meet,’ and he would invite every kid in the neighborhood,” says Kelly, adding that the afternoon would include races, trophies, commemorative T-­shirts and the Olympic theme song. “He would make it a real event.” Family trips to the grocery store with Tim were entertaining, too. “He would tell us, ‘You are going to go into one aisle, and I’m going to go in the next one over. Whoever catches the most groceries that I throw over the top gets $10,” Kelly shares. “There are six of us, but only eight years from oldest to youngest. My dad did a lot to keep us occupied so that we didn’t kill each other.”

Despite Tim’s TV stardom, Kelly says she and her brothers were raised with “Midwestern values.” That included being polite to Tim’s fans but not courting attention or demanding special treatment. “We’d go into a restaurant with a 45­-minute wait. They would go, ‘Mr. Conway, we can slip you into the back booth — just give us a minute.’ My dad would say, ‘Nope. We are going to wait outside. Call us when a table is ready.’ ”

Tim Conway Was Funny, Happy and Smart Says Daughter Kelly
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Tim was also quietly generous. He purchased a new sound system for the high school’s football stadium when Kelly was on the cheerleading squad. “He donated it to the school,” she says. “It wasn’t because he was rich. He just did it because it would be more enjoyable for everyone.”

Every Thursday, their family drove to the studio to watch The Carol Burnett Show’s dress rehearsal. Kelly recalls playing with the kids of the other performers and sneaking around the lot. “Across the hall was The Sonny and Cher Show, and next door to them was Three’s Company,” she says. “I would say, ‘Mom, I’m going to the bathroom!’ and I would go to watch Sonny and Cher. I loved Cher. And John Ritter was so nice to me. It was just a fun TV family.

Tim and Mary Anne divorced in 1978. He married Charlene Fusco six years later. “We would ride our bikes between their homes. Sometimes I would have dinner at Dad’s house and then sleep at home or vice versa,” says Kelly, who describes her early relationship with Charlene as close. “I loved her. We even traveled and went to dinners without my dad. He didn’t like Chinese food, so we’d be like, ‘See ya!’ ”

Things changed after Tim was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus in 2018, a condition that causes dementia. Kelly wanted to consult with her father’s doctors and caregivers and have a say in his treatment, but Charlene objected. They went to court fighting to be named Tim’s conservator. The judge sided with Charlene, but Kelly won visitation rights through mediation. “I talked to my father every day. I wanted to help take care of him, but she didn’t want me to be any part of it,” says Kelly. “It wasn’t about money. I just wanted to make sure he was comfortable and surrounded by love and familiar things.”

When Tim passed away in 2019, Charlene did not call Kelly or her brothers. Kelly found out when she saw it on her phone’s news feed. “I knew he was fading, but it was shocking,” she says. “But when it was over, I was satisfied that the time I put into caring for my dad, making him smile and watching TV with him — I know I did everything I could.”

Kelly admits she worried what her father would think about her writing about those difficult days, but when her publisher revealed that her memoir would be released on December 15, she felt relief. “That’s my dad’s birthday, and the publisher had no idea,” Kelly says. “I took that as a blessing.”