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Navy veteran mourned as tragic accident takes a life known for giving

John K. Kerr got a call Aug. 16 from a friend who asked for a ride to run an errand.

Kerr, 59, of North Tonawanda, was known to lend a hand and help a friend in need. So he hopped in his Kia Optima and headed over. But he never made it.

His vehicle was struck by a large tree limb that snapped and fell as he was traveling in the 2700 block of Parker Boulevard, just south of Ellicott Creek Road, in the Town of Tonawanda. It was a route that he had traveled numerous times before.

Kerr died from his injuries Sept. 4 in Erie County Medical Center.

“It’s such a freak thing, you know?” said his brother Kevin, the oldest of five brothers in a family reeling from the death of the Navy veteran, husband, father and grandfather.

That same area of the quiet residential street was the scene of another accident exactly a month later.

On Friday just before 5 p.m., Kathleen Hutton, 69, of Amherst, was southbound on Parker when her 2016 Honda Fit struck a parked 2006 Honda Civic and flipped over at the same spot where Kerr was struck a month earlier, Police Lt. Paul A. Yacono said.

Hutton escaped with minor injuries and was taken to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Amherst. The accident was caused by “driver inattention,” according to police, who do not suspect that alcohol, drug or cellphone use played a role. Hutton was not cited after the crash.

Yacono, an accident investigator, said that there was no common link between the two serious incidents, other than the location.

“There are no hazards,” he said of the residential street in the northern section of town. “It’s a regular, well-traveled thoroughfare. That area is not known for these types of accidents that occurred. They were just coincidences.”

The accident site is around the corner from a Brighton Volunteer Fire Company station, whose firefighters responded to both incidents.

“The roadway is unremarkable,” Yacono said.

“It’s just a regular roadway. There’s no obstructions, no sightline differences.”

Yacono said town forestry workers told him that tree limbs have been more susceptible to breaking this summer because of the drought affecting the area.

Meanwhile, Kerr was remembered for his passion for baseball coaching, which he did for about 12 years, until 2004, with the River Rock Baseball and Softball League in Buffalo.

“John was very level-headed, down-to-earth, always had a smile and an even temperament,” said John Fracos, the league’s publicity director.

“He really worked great with the kids.”

Kerr served as the league’s vice president and helped turn the league around by stabilizing its finances in the early 2000s, Fracos said.

Kerr coached players ages 7 to 9, then players ages 10 to 12 in later years, and was good at teaching them the fundamentals of hitting and fielding, Fracos said.

“He always managed to help kids get a little bit better,” he said.

Kerr graduated in 1974 from McKinley High School and enlisted in the Navy, serving four years stationed in Norfolk Va., and Bath, Maine, said his brother. He went on to study at the University at Buffalo and worked for Duplicating Consultants, selling copier equipment.

“He was really a pretty simple person, just had simple pleasures in life – kids, friends, grandkids,” Kevin Kerr said. “More than anything, the Little League coaching was his thing.”

While in the Navy, he was diagnosed with diabetes brought on by the stress of his mother’s illness back home. He would battle diabetes complications for the rest of his life.

“John would be really sick from the diabetes and had a lot of complications but never really complained,” his brother said. “He just always took it in stride and dealt with it in the hospital.”

Kerr doted on his three grandchildren, two of whom considered accompanying him Aug. 16 on the errand but decided not to go.

“They didn’t get in the car with him,” Kevin Kerr said. “That’s a blessing.”


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