Created on Thursday, 04 December 2008 06:36
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 December 2008 06:36
June 24, 1929 - November 26, 2008
Joseph Minott Kerr, 79, died peacefully in his sleep at his lakeside
home in Ferrisburgh early Wednesday morning, November 26, 2008, after a
10-year struggle with Parkinson's disease.
Born in New York City on June 24, 1929, to John and Margaret Minott
Kerr, Joe was raised in St. James, Long Island, NY, and attended
Emerson School and Exeter Academy. He received a degree in business
administration from Northwestern University. During the Korean War he
taught Arctic survival to aircraft pilots and crews in California's
High Sierras for the U.S. Air Force.
Joe's diverse professional career ranged from dealing with longshoremen
in labor negotiations for General Foods in Hoboken, NJ, to working as a
consultant with NYC's Booze Allen Hamilton until 1965.
In the mid 1960s Joe, his wife Mary and three sons moved from Mendham,
NJ, to Fayston, VT, seeking a rural lifestyle closer to nature.
His love of and work in Vermont were highlighted by three years in the
Governor Deane C. Davis administration. As the state's secretary of
Civil and Military Affairs, he assisted in writing landmark legislation
that resulted in helping to preserve Vermont in its highly pristine
state. Among these efforts were Act 250, a billboard ban and a bottle
deposit requirement. He also served as commissioner of Employment
Security during Governor Richard Snelling's administration before
returning to the private sector in 1980.
Between administrations he organized the original Vermont Community
Foundation under the auspices of the McConnell/Clark Foundation that
also took him to Quebec's Eastern Shore to work with local native
A kind, peaceful man, Joe was devoted to his family, friends and
community to whom he served in many capacities. He retired from B.F.
Goodrich of Vergennes in 1998 after 18 years as an executive with the
human resources and training departments. For Joe his work as an active
liaison with local community projects for Goodrich were some of his
most memorable years. He served as Addison County United Way president
and chairman of the Bixby Library Board of Trustees. He was
particularly proud of working with architect Martin Tierney to restore
the Bixby building including the magnificent stained-glass atrium. He
also served on the Elderly Services Board in Middlebury.
Joe's love of the out-of-doors took him and Mary all over the world
from their home on Lake Champlain to Washington state's San Juans, the
Chesapeake Bay, Virgin Islands and the coast of Turkey for sailing; and
to ski in the French, Italian, Austrian and Swiss Alps. Joe, a member
of the Amateur Ski Club of New York, was an original investor in
Fayston's Glen Ellen. He served as a board member during the fledgling
ski area's growing pains from 1962-1967.
He was active in the Mad River Valley's Boy Scouts, an organizer of the
Valley Junior Racing Club and Ski Education Foundation and a founder of
St. Dunstan's Episcopal Mission in Waitsfield. After moving to their
Ferrisburgh home in 1990, Joe served on the Mission Committee of the
Vergennes Congregational Church and as a volunteer for the Lake
Champlain Maritime Museum.
He is survived by his wife Mary, whom he married on April 2, 1955, in
East Hampton Long Island, NY. He is also survived by his son J Minott
Kerr of Portland, OR; son Gibson B. Kerr and his wife Diane of
Springfield, VA, granddaughter Alyssa; and granddaughter Kirstin and
her husband Seamus O'Connor of Brooklyn, NY; son Geoffrey G. Kerr and
three grandsons Maxwell, Gavin and Peter of Palo Alto, CA. He is also
survived by his brother John Kerr of Hightstown, NJ, cousin William
Morriss of Yuma, AZ, and numerous nieces and nephews. A sister
Elizabeth predeceased him in July 2008.
A memorial service is planned for January. In lieu of flowers donations
may be made to the Bixby Library, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, the
Vergennes Food Shelf or Heat Assistance Program.