In Memoriam: Vincent J. Kerr, DVM – December 2, 1937 to August 6, 2018

In Memoriam: Vincent J. Kerr, DVM – December 2, 1937 to August 6, 2018

Vincent J. Kerr, a longtime Jacksonville veterinarian and a pioneer in the field passed away August 6, 2018, in hospice care at St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside.

Dr. Kerr grew up in New Jersey, where he worked in greenhouses during high school before entering Cornell University to earn a Bachelor of Science in agriculture.

“At that time, they required a farm background in poultry, cattle or some type of basic knowledge before admittance into a specific field of study. If I’d been the son of an alumnus, that might have helped too. That counselor told me, ‘You’re no veterinarian’ which was devastating…I had tears in my eyes when my father and I left. My dad wisely talked me into going back. Fortunately, the counselor recognized my horticultural work experience and sent me to take some sample plant cuttings, which were carefully examined. I was finally admitted into agriculture and completed my B.S. degree,” said Kerr in a July 2014 interview with Julie Kerns Garmendia, a writer for The Resident.

Determined to become a veterinarian, Kerr worked summers on a farm and kept diaries of his animal work, worked a year in tetanus antitoxin research for Lederle Laboratories and was a test subject for development of the oral polio vaccine, before being accepted as the only out-of-state student into Purdue University’s veterinary school in 1960.

Dr. Kerr met his wife, Diane Janney, at a country club where they both worked during college. The couple married June 22, 1963, and after Kerr graduated from Purdue in December 1963, they moved to Boston where he practiced at Angell Animal Medical Center, before moving to Nashville in August 1964, where he served for 10 years in a multi-vet practice.

In 1974 the family moved to Jacksonville where Kerr worked for veterinarian Sam Johnson, passed his national board examination and was licensed. Then Kerr bought Johnson’s practice, office and home on Edison Avenue and became the third vet to practice there after Drs. Grace and Johnson. Edison was the area’s oldest animal hospital, with a vet there continuously since the early 1900s.

Pop Pop was the glue that held our family together. The strongest man, both mentally and physically, who never gave up and always spoke the truth, even when hard to hear. He instilled in all of us values that we will carry with us forever. See you on the other side, Pop, enjoy all of the doggies over the Rainbow Bridge and say Hi to Nana, Tim, Tabitha and Henry Miller for me.

 

Tarryn Bradford Poling

Diane was office manager, a fearless First Coast Crime Stopper, who founded the North Riverside Community Development Association and tackled a neighborhood hazardous waste site issue. She championed animal welfare, was an EVE winner and NE Florida Association of Social Workers Citizen of the Year, among other honors.

Dr. Kerr was happy to get up and go to work every morning, and to the pets and owners who loved him, there was no more respected clinic, wrote Garmendia. Kerr also treated cattle, goats and worked at the horse and dog tracks in their heyday, with a large racing greyhound practice. Many clients brought pets from all over Florida, as far as Miami, to Doc Kerr.

“In all those years, up until January 3, 2013 when he suffered a serious fall and had to retire, he worked fulltime, never turned down a patient, treated thousands of pets and helped several generations of pet owners,” said his wife. “A vet may have an incredible facility, but what matters, what builds the practice and loyalty…the true reason people bring their pets, is that they know and trust the vet to keep their pets healthy and well….and that’s Vince Kerr.”

Avondale resident Pat Teems was a long-time client of Dr. Kerr, after moving to Jacksonville in 1984 and bringing her two-year-old Yorkie to him for care.

“Dr. Kerr saw me through the ups and downs in the lives of my animals until he had his tragic accident,” Teems said. “Over the years Dr. Kerr and Diane and I became friends. They were the kindest, most compassionate people it was my pleasure to know. Dr. Kerr and I had many fun chats when I visited the clinic with one of my animals. He would always ask ‘Are you still working?” and my answer always was, ‘Same as you.’ We agreed we both loved what we did, so why stop.”

My dad was my hero, but I didn’t realize how much until I got older. Dad constantly took care of all of us. He taught me the importance of family, to work hard, and always be grateful for what you have. I have always told my sons and grandsons that if I had listened to half of what my father told me I would be much better off than I am today. Dad, you are the voice in my head that when I was young drove me crazy but now I don’t ever want to lose. I will sorely miss your humor, smile, and the time we spent working on projects in the shop. God gave me a great blessing – he gave me my dad.

 

Vincent A. Kerr

Another longtime client, Betty Baird, said she’s also known Dr. Kerr since the mid-1980s. “He was one of the sweetest, kindest men I’ve ever known. Very sympathetic when I lost a pet, he took very good care of them,” said Baird, who works at the front desk at the Timuquana Country Club. “You don’t meet people like him too many times in your life. I loved him for the man he was.”

Garmendia, an experienced animal rescuer, first met Kerr and his wife in the 1990s, after a horrific rescue. “Doc’s empathy and unwavering support extended to local animal rescuers,” she said. “After reading a frantic mass email begging someone to rescue a starving dog confined inside the backyard of an abandoned property, I noted the email was three days old. Believing that surely someone had already responded, I nonetheless decided to double-check.

“I was horrified at the sight of the large dog that struggled to stand, weighing nearly nothing, yet pitifully tried to wag its emaciated tail at us. As I wrangled the wired-shut gate, my daughter explored the backyard where she quickly found three puppies, somehow still alive. The nearest vet’s office my phone pulled up was Edison and miraculously, on a cold, stormy Sunday morning, instead of a recording, Diane Kerr answered and, in a kind, patient voice, told me to come straight over, that she knew her husband could help.

“Not only did he save that dog, he saved or helped to save countless other abandoned or unwanted animals over the ensuing years. Because Doc knew the prohibitive costs and personal efforts required to rescue, rehabilitate and find forever homes for strays, he quietly charged minimal or no fees to serial rescuers. He would often laugh at me and say, ‘Oh, I’ll just send you the bill.’ That deep generosity made a huge difference to many individuals who were able to continue helping incalculable unwanted animals, when they otherwise would be unable to afford to do so,” said Garmendia.

Dr. Kerr was also a passionate spay/neuter advocate who donated assistance and part of his facilities to First Coast No More Homeless Pets during that group’s critical, early formative years, hosting their free or no-cost spay/neuter clinic onsite at Edison.

Vincent Kerr is survived by his wife of 55 years, Diane; son, Vincent (Lisa); daughter, Pamela Bradford Williams (Seth); son, Daniel; granddaughters, Tarryn Bradford Poling (Brandon) and Sophia Williams; grandsons, Joshua and John (Zain and Zack); great-grandson, Bradford Poling, and a brother, David Kerr.

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