Attended by the caring staff of his assisted living memory unit, James L. Kerr of Waukesha, Wisconsin died peacefully at age 82 on May 7, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
He was born in Plainfield, New Jersey. Jim was named All-American while swimming the 50 and 100-yard freestyle for Waukesha High School his junior and senior years there. Jim is listed on his high school’s “Wall of Fame.”
Jim was best known for, during his time in the Army, his silver medal representing the U.S. in the Modern Pentathlon (running, swimming, equestrian, pistol shooting, fencing) in the Tokyo Olympics 1964. Also, at age 40, Jim fenced in the Los Angeles Olympics 1984, representing his then home on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He taught high school science there, and was “Teacher of the Year,” multiple times.
In his 70’s, after losing his sight due to a faulty prescription, Jim competed in Paralympics sailing competitions around the world, representing the U.S. Virgin Islands with other disabled sailors.
Jim’s final challenge in life was Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed in 2020. Jim’s brother, Bruce Kerr, was fortunate to be able to step in and assume responsibility for Jim’s affairs. Bruce’s monthly visits to Los Angeles for brother time included indoor pool swimming together for the first time in many decades. But, in the end, it was his daily treat of ice cream which won out over all other joys in his life.
Jim was predeceased by his parents, Opal and Kenneth Kerr; his older sister, Kerby Goforth (nee Kay Kerr), Kathy Kinton, his second wife, and James Conway and Rodney Ruskell, cousins. He is survived by his son, Paul Deniston; his brother, Bruce Kerr (Linda Tingle Kerr); grandchildren Courtney Taylor and Connor Deniston; cousins, Colleen McAndrews-Wood (Rob Wood), Bridget Morgan (Douglas), Katy Dalgleish (Ron), John Ruskell (Kafie), Paul Ruskell, Stephanie Ruskell (Adrienne Otis), Lynn Neil, Robert Eichelberger; nieces and nephews, Christopher Kerr (Megan Berru-Kerr), Emily Kerr (Brandon Roberts), Carrie James, Geoff James, and Ruth Ashton, his first wife.
The family wishes to thank “The Inn at Park Ventura'' in Woodland Hills, CA for helping with the final two years of Jim's life. Their compassionate staff provided a caring home for Jim in their memory unit.
Additionally, the family wishes to thank St. Thomas residents, Barbara Young, Steve Prosterman and others who volunteered to help Jim over the years as he blindly trodded up and down the mountain trail to his cabin on the west end, taking him to appointments and shopping. This included rescuing “Blind Luck Jim” (his folksong, guitar-playing moniker bestowed by his brother, Bruce) after he was marooned in that cabin after hurricanes Maria and Irma struck St. Thomas in 2017. Some of Jim’s friends on the island are currently hatching plans for a St. Thomas memorial sometime in the next few months.
A private celebration of Jim’s remarkable life will be held at a future date. Jim will be interred at Prairie Home Cemetery in Jim’s hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin at the burial site of his great-grandfather, James M. Kerr, for whom Jim was named.
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