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Kate Spade's father: 'She'd be delighted' if her death sheds light on mental illness

Fashion designer Kate Spade, who loved her Kansas City roots, was found dead Tuesday

On Tuesday, Kate Spade was found dead at age 55 in her New York Park Avenue apartment from an apparent hanging suicide, police said. She leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter, Frances, as well as her husband, Andy Spade.
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On Tuesday, Kate Spade was found dead at age 55 in her New York Park Avenue apartment from an apparent hanging suicide, police said. She leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter, Frances, as well as her husband, Andy Spade.

One day after the apparent suicide of his daughter Kate Spade, her nearly 90-year-old father said she'd be gratified to know that something good might come from the worldwide discussion of her death.

"One thing we feel is that any talk that they do that helps somebody else, Katy would have liked that," her father, Frank Brosnahan, said from his house in Kansas City on Wednesday. "She was always giving and charitable. If that helped anybody avoid anything — fine, she'd be delighted."

Brosnahan said he was aware that the most famous of his six children was having troubles. "She'd been taking some pills, which I advised her not to take," he shared. But he also said that he spoke to her on Monday, the evening before she died.

"Well, I don't know what happened," he said. "The last I talked with her, the night before last, she was happy planning a trip to California to look at colleges. She doted on her daughter."

Spade's daughter, 13-year-old Frances Beatrix, was not home when her mother, at age 55, apparently hanged herself in their New York condominium.

Kate Spade, a fashion designer known for her sleek handbags, was found hanged in the bedroom of her Park Avenue apartment in an apparent suicide, police confirmed at a press conference Tuesday.

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Andy Spade File photo


Spade's husband and business partner, Andy Spade — the brother of actor and comedian David Spade — told The New York Times on Wednesday that he and his wife had been living apart for the last 10 months but they had no plans to divorce. They maintained different apartments a few blocks from each other, continued to take vacations together, and their daughter split her time between them.

Spade, in a lengthy statement, also said his wife began suffering serious bouts of depression about six years ago.

The day of Spade's death, her 57-year-old sister, Reta Saffo, emailed The Star to say her sister's suicide was "not unexpected." She told of how her sister battled mental illness, perhaps bipolar disorder, for several years, and eschewed efforts to be hospitalized. Her revelations about her sister, whose name is synonymous with a billion-dollar fashion brand, were spread by media outlets worldwide.

Their brother, Earl Brosnahan, told The New York Times that Saffo had been estranged from the family for more than 10 years, and that Spade was the only sibling she had been speaking to. He was taken aback that Saffo "should surface now with very definitive statements that I think are grossly inaccurate.”

But their father, Frank Brosnahan, who contacted The Star on Wednesday, supported Saffo's decision to openly discuss her sister's death and struggles.

"Well, that's up to her," he said. "She's a grown woman and we love her and she means nothing but love for her sister."

He said he suspects and hopes that his daughter's body may come home to Kansas City.

"I think so," said Brosnahan, speaking broadly for the family. "At least that's what I would like. I'd like for her to be buried with her mother. They were very close."

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In 1999, Kate Spade (center) came home from New York for the annual Amy Thompson Run to Daylight to benefit the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City. She attended a benefit reception with (from left) her mother, June Brosnahan (who died in 2010), Byron G. Thompson, Karen VanAsdale and Jeanne Thompson. Laura R. Hockaday The Kansas City Star

Spade is also survived by three other sisters, Missy, Ann and Eve. Her mother, June Mullen Brosnahan, a former flight attendant and Realtor, died in March 2010 and is buried in Kansas City's Calvary Cemetery, 6901 Troost Ave. Attempts to reach other family members were unsuccessful.

But in a statement to the New York Daily News and other outlets, the family said, "We are all devastated by today’s tragedy. We loved Kate dearly and will miss her terribly. We would ask that our privacy be respected as we grieve during this very difficult time."

Spade is also the aunt of television actress Rachel Brosnahan — Earl Brosnahan's daughter — who won a Golden Globe this year for her starring role in Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

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Rachel Brosnahan won best performance by an actress in a television series - musical or comedy for "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. She is the niece of Kate Spade. Jordan Strauss Invision/AP

On Instagram, the young actress posted a video of Spade dancing to a mariachi band and wrote:

"Knowing Katy, this is how she would want to be remembered. She had a light that words can’t capture but touched everyone she came into contact with. She was exceedingly kind, beautifully sensitive, insanely talented, funny as heck and one of the most generous people I have ever known. She was effervescent. Hug your loved ones extra tight today."

Frank Brosnahan was asked how his family was faring.

"I think they're all right," he said. "We're a large family and all close. We'll get through it.

"But we certainly miss our bright, sun-shiney little person."

To get help

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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