“We have seen a very loving relationship — a Mother working hard to provide her son enjoyable, educational, and developmental experiences,” Petraeus wrote, speaking on behalf of himself and his wife.
In addition to being guests at the Kelleys’ parties, the Petraeuses were invited to intimate family gatherings, including a Christmas dinner. In one family photo book posted online, David Petraeus is pictured grinning sweetly with the Kelleys’ three young daughters. The caption from their 7-year-old reads: “I was with General Petraeus. He was at my house.”
Federal investigators said Jill Kelley’s closeness to Petraeus — captured in party pictures in local newspapers and online — may have explained why she received harassing e-mails from Paula Broadwell, with whom the general had an extramarital affair.
But Kelley’s brother, David Khawam, said neither of his sisters had anything but a social relationship with Petraeus. He said Jill is a born giver who early on channeled her efforts into political fundraising and later to the military.
It is a quality, he said, born of the Catholic family’s persecution in their native Lebanon; when he, Jill and Natalie were small children, the family fled to the United States, he said. They built a productive new life in America. “We feel we owe everything we have to this country,” David Khawam said. “We’re extremely patriotic.”
Jill Kelley and her husband started a charity focused on cancer research and on granting “wishes to terminally ill cancer patients,” according to 2007 tax documents. The documents show that, of the nearly $160,000 the group raised, it spent roughly half on meals, entertainment, and automotive and office expenses.
Kelley has seemed eager to make her civic involvement clear to those around her. Outside her two-story mansion Tuesday was a gray Mercedes-Benz S500 with vanity plates reading “Honorary Consul” and “1JK.” Nearby, contractors piled up tables and folding chairs after a weekend party.
A military officer who is a former member of Petraeus’s staff said Kelley was a “self-appointed” go-between for Central Command officers with Lebanese and other Middle Eastern officials.
Her presence was often a bit puzzling to Petraeus’s staff, the officer said, but added that there was never any indication that her relationship with the general was anything more than social.
Aaron Fodiman, the publisher of Tampa Bay Magazine and a friend of the Kelleys, said people in the family’s social sphere are shocked by the spotlight that the investigations have cast on the community. “She is so gracious, so lovely,” he said of Jill Kelley. “She’s one of those people — she walks in the room, and the room lights up.”
Londoño reported from Tampa. Anne Gearan, Rebecca Cohen and Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.