Dr. Charles Kerr

chuckArizona Daily Star, The (Tucson, AZ) - July 9, 1999
Deceased Name: Pioneer UA psychiatrist Charles Kerr dies
A memorial service was held yesterday for Dr. Charles Kerr, a pioneering Tucson psychiatrist, award-winning educator, marathon runner and former Olympic torch bearer.

Kerr died July 3 of complications from a seizure he suffered last month due to a brain tumor. He was 64.

A respected educator at the University of Arizona College of Medicine's department of psychiatry, Kerr was one of the department's founders. He taught there for 29 years in various capacities and was a part-time clinical associate professor at the time of his death.

During his years at the university, Kerr was named Teacher of the Year several times by his psychiatric resident students.

Kerr also maintained a private practice during that time. Besides practicing general psychiatry, he was one of the first doctors in Tucson to introduce marital and sex therapy to the city in the 1970s, says his UA colleague, Dr. John Racy.

''He was something of a pioneer in that regard. I think it's fair to say he helped hundreds of people in his lifetime,'' said Racy, director of student education at the UA's psychiatry department.

''He has probably trained between 100 and 200 psychiatrists who are now practicing in Tucson and around the country.''

As a teacher, Kerr ''was fairly tough. He could be critical. But people respected his integrity and his commitment. He was very genuine and people appreciated that,'' Racy said.

Kerr began running in 1976 and soon after became involved in marathons. Over the years, he competed in many prestigious events across the United States, including the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon.

The highlight of his running career came in 1980, when he was selected to run on the Winter Olympics torch relay team.

Kerr was one of 52 runners picked to carry the torch from Virginia to Lake Placid, N.Y. Upon arriving at Lake Placid, the other 51 runners picked Kerr to enter the stadium and light the Olympic flame in a moment captured on national television.

''That (Olympic) moment meant a lot to him. It was kind of like the pinnacle,'' said Kerr's eldest son, Charles Kerr II of Tucson.

''One of my dad's favorite lines when we were out running was 'Take it one telephone pole at a time.' He tried to live his whole life like that, with the idea that all you can do is do your best and live one day at a time.''

Locally, Kerr was one of the founding members of a running club that eventually evolved into the present day South Arizona Roadrunners Club. He was especially fond of running at Sabino Canyon and at Saguaro National Park-East.

Born in Perry, Okla. in 1935 as the son of an oil field worker, Kerr lived in poverty as a child but was later able to attend Yale University on an academic scholarship. He later graduated from Baylor Medical School in Houston, Texas, and interned at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va.

He attended the U.S. Naval School of Submarine and Radiation Medicine, then served aboard the USS Ethan Allen as a medical corps lieutenant for three years.

After leaving the Navy, he completed his psychiatric residency at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. Kerr moved to Tucson with his then-wife and their five sons in 1970.

He is survived by four sons: Charles, Tim, and Erik of Tucson and Scott of Phoenix. Another son, David, died in 1988.

by Brian J. Pedersen on Jul. 09, 1999, under Tucson and Arizona
Olympic torchbearer Dr. Kerr dies at 65

BRIAN J. PEDERSEN Citizen Sportswriter

There were many accomplishments that lighted the life of Dr. Charles Kerr, one of which he shared with the world.

Dr. Kerr, a former University of Arizona faculty member and avid marathon runner, died Saturday at age 65.

He was well-known throughout the psychiatric community but gained the most notice for being one of 52 runners selected to carry the torch from Virginia to Lake Placid, N.Y., for the 1980 Winter Olympics. The other 51 runners voted to have Dr. Kerr light the torch Feb. 13, 1980, on national television.

"I think he about passed out," said one of his sons, Charles Kerr. The experience "was important to him for a lot of reasons."

Dr. Kerr said at the time, "When I ran into the (Olympic) stadium, I was floating."

His running career began at Odessa High School in Texas, where he was a member of the track team and graduated salutatorian in 1953. He graduated from Yale, where he was a member of the swimming team in 1957, then moved on to Baylor Medical School in 1963.

Kerr came to Tucson in 1970, joining the UA Psychiatry Department and remaining on staff until his death from drowning, likely caused by a seizure.

He became an avid runner in 1976, prompted by middle-age weight gain. He started running in marathons and answered a newspaper ad for Olympic torchbearers. Out of 6,000 applicants, Dr. Kerr was chosen to represent the state of Arizona based on his "poise and style" while carrying the torch around a track during auditions.

Following the opening ceremonies, Dr. Kerr went on to run competitively in marathons throughout North America, including the Boston and New York marathons.

Charles Kerr said his father's philosophy of running was, "Look, bud, take one telephone pole at a time and you'll do all right."

"I think that's how he lived his life," Charles Kerr added.

Dr. Kerr is survived by his former wife, Esther Kerr ; his companion, Sue Lamarine; four sons, Charles, Erik and Tim of Tucson and Scott of Phoenix; his brother, David; his sister, Jonny Lou Jones; two nephews; three nieces; and six grand-nieces and nephews. His first granddaughter was to arrive today.

A memorial service was held for Dr. Kerr earlier this week.