Remembered by Tony Harwood-Jones
I first met Kerr when he and his wife were looking for a church near their home and chose St. Chad’s, of which, at the time, I was Rector. I had no idea that he was one of the most respected legal minds in Canada, and Kerr liked it that way, for he and Susan wanted to be “at home” in their church family, not on display.
Kerr did not immediately rush into parish leadership. He and Sue attended worship and made friends. But slowly, I would find Kerr helping something happen that he believed in: for example, a food bank. The parish began collecting for Winnipeg Harvest, and Kerr promoted a “product of the week” system where everyone was encouraged to bring one thing: peanut butter one week, macaroni the next, tinned tuna the next, and so forth; items chosen on the advice of the food bank.
Another Kerr initiative was the “Two-Bird Dinner.” These events did not necessarily have birds on the menu; rather, they “killed two birds with one stone,” promoting parish fellowship and raising funds for mission and service. Someone would prepare a feast and create in their home the atmosphere of a good restaurant. Guests — fellow parishioners — would then contribute an amount equivalent to what they would have spent had they gone to an actual eatery. The dinners and their two “birds” (fellowship and funds) became a mainstay of parish life for several years.
Such was Kerr’s creativity.
Meanwhile, he and Sue evolved, over time, from being my parishioners to being our dear friends. After I became Rector of another parish, we stayed in touch, enjoying the occasional social evening, and, in these latter years, many a Sunday brunch after our respective church services. Because my wife, Heather, is a lawyer, I learned through her of Kerr’s accomplishments and legal decisions, but these were never the focus of our friendship. We would talk about music (Kerr was founder of the Manitoba Opera Association), about our respective families, and about our various adventures. Sometimes Kerr and I would “do lunch,” when he would ask penetrating questions about theology, or seek my opinion about some ethical controversy convulsing the Canadian Church.
Kerr was a great lawyer, a remarkable judge, a patron of the arts, and a penetrating intellect; but for me, he was just a good friend, a devoted husband and father, and a shorter-than-average guy with a wicked sense of humour and a unique, shuffling way of walking that allowed me to recognize him from afar.
Kerr died on March 30, 2015, after a few years of declining ability. For the funeral, his church family — St. Chad’s — partnered with Broadway First Baptist (his daughter Kathy’s church), thinking that they might need a big church and a big reception. Sure enough, the place was packed, both with members of St. Chad’s and an enormous number of lawyers, judges, musicians… and friends, like Heather and me.
He is missed.