Olympian George Kerr dies at 74

BY DANIA BOGLE Observer staff reporter

Sunday, June 17, 2012

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AS Jamaica prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary of Independence and participate in another Olympic Games, it mourns the passing of another athlete who helped put the country's name on the global map, following the death on Friday of George Kerr.

Kerr, 74, who was ailing for some time, died after suffering a massive heart attack on June 4. He was the first athlete to have the Jamaican flag hoisted for a gold medal when he won the 400m and 800m at the Central America and Caribbean Games held at the National Stadium in 1962.

At the 1960 Olympics when Jamaican athletes competed as part of the British West Indies team, Kerr won bronze medals in the 800m and as a member of the men's 4x400m team.

He also competed at the Commonwealth Games, winning gold in the 440 yards and silver in the 880 in 1962 in Perth, Australia, and a bronze in the 880 at the 1966 Games in Kingston.

Jamaica Athletic Administrative Association (JAAA) president Dr Warren Blake met Kerr recently and told the Sunday Observer he spoke to Kerr's wife, Fay, at least once per week since he suffered a stroke several weeks ago.

"It's a loss to the track and field fraternity coming on the heels of Keith Gardner," Blake said in reference to the athlete who was also a member of the Tokyo Games 4x400m relay team who died earlier this year.

"His name is not as prominent as others, maybe, because his competition was not for Jamaica, but for the West Indies team. He is really one of those who did not get quite the recognition as others from his era," Blake added.

His widow told the Sunday Observer that Kerr was a humble man who did not readily speak of his achievements.

"He never shared those thoughts, but it was his personality to be quiet and low-keyed," she said.

"He was one of those athletes who really never spoke. If you got him in a conversation he would converse, but he would not automatically get up and speak about it. He was just a humble man."

She said despite this trait, Kerr was always moved by the national anthem.

"He was also very emotional about these things and hearing the anthem being played. It was very emotional for him. It was like he did what he had to do and left it."

For Kerr to have died this year as well, she noted, was symbolic.

"It's actually 50 years and to have died at this point; it's very significant," she said.

A stoic Mrs Kerr said her husband would not have wanted it any other way.

"I've learnt to be strong and bold because the challenges throughout have been many. He wouldn't want me to be any other way. He always said I was the strongest person he knew."

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