Obituaries & Death Notices
KERR, Robert John
Published:May 14, 2010
Event Date:Apr 29, 2010
KERR, Robert John August 28, 1929 - April 29, 2010 "Late, but in earnest." Robert Kerr was a craftsman, a businessman, a politician, a pilot, a printer, and a lover of wooden boats. He was best known as one of the founders of Imax. Robert and his friends Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Bill Shaw and Bill Breukelman, forged their vision into the Imax experience, enriching the lives of millions of men, women and children around the world. Robert was a man of many talents, but he most loved making things with his hands, and was happiest while analyzing a problem until he found an elegant solution. No detail was too small for Robert, and no dream too big or complex. He was born and grew up in Galt, Ontario. As a young man he established and operated a specialty printing company, John Kerr and Son, with his father, where he learned to appreciate typography, design and the beauty of the printed word. He was drawn to politics as a teenager when he became involved in the CCF, and he was a lifelong social democrat. His sense of civic duty carried him from alderman to becoming the youngest mayor in the history of the city of Galt. In 1964 he was elected to the first of four one year terms, a time marked by re-organization of the city's governmental and administrative structures. In 1975 Robert began a two-year term as the Mayor of the newly amalgamated City of Cambridge, retiring at the end of 1976 to devote himself full time to Imax. He proudly wore his gold mayoral ring for the rest of his life. From Imax's inception, he and his colleagues realized they had to build the infrastructure for an entirely new industry. "We had just enough experience to give us confidence but we were very naive, which I think saved us." Robert's vision was far-reaching; his commitment never faltered. He served Imax from 1967 to 1994 as Chairman, then Chairman Emeritus and finally President and Chief Executive Officer. Although retired from Imax, Robert's interest in large format film continued, and led to his partnership with Jonathan Barker in forming SK Films. In his retirement Robert took a keen interest in the arts and education and generously supported local artists. In 1997 he endowed the University of Waterloo's Stanley Knowles Visiting Professorship in Canadian Studies and bestowed bursaries at all of the Cambridge high schools. He said, "I believe it is important for Canadians to increase our understanding of ourselves, our history, our special institutions and those qualities that contribute to a more thoughtful and compassionate nation." Robert had a lifelong passion for wooden boats. His latest love was the building of a gleaming cherry and cedar Edwardian gentleman's steam launch. As in all of his endeavours, his standards were of the highest order. He expected the best efforts from others and from himself. No detail was too small to escape his scrutiny; his keen eye would soon find the tiniest flaw in any work. He enjoyed his "hands-on" work on the steamboat, and on a few occasions when he was having a little difficulty meeting his own standards he would be gently chided by his friend and collaborator John Werlich, "Remember, Robert-perfect is good enough!" Prominently displayed in his "Boatworks" for all to see was a quote from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." Although Robert was not a boastful man, his thumbs would always find that favoured place behind his suspenders whenever he was proud of an achievement. He dreamed of the future: of movies larger than life; and he dreamed of the past: of boats powered by steam. When he became ill and required hospital care, he spoke of how privileged he felt to have been taken care of by such a dedicated team, and how it reaffirmed his commitment to universal health care. Robert is survived by his children from his first marriage, Nancy Kerr and Barbara Kerr (Peter Thillaye) and his grandchildren Christena Bell, Graeme Bell, Jake Young, Max Young, Mattia Thillaye-Kerr and Rowan Thillaye-Kerr; and great-grandson Collin Bell-Manners. He leaves his wife, Margaret Seward Kerr and stepdaughters Suzanne Seward-Stouffer (Paul) and Frances Seward; grandchildren Christopher Gowing (Anna), Nathaniel Gordon (Erin), Alisdair Gordon, Paula Wilson (Paul) and Joel Stouffer; great-grandsons Matthew Gowing and Kieran Gordon. For information on Robert's memorial gathering, please go to www.robertkerrmemorial.wordpress.com
Category: Obituaries & Death Notices
Newspaper(s): Waterloo Region Record
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