John Hawley Kerry
Born: August 5th, 1929
On the Eve of his 90th Birthday Celebration
Almonte United Church, Social Hall
106 Elgin Street
Sunday, August 4th
From 1:30 to 4:30
When one such as John Hawley Kerry is on the eve of his 90th birthday it is quite impossible when remarking about his life to avoid the appearance of speaking after the fact. So many details have of necessity transpired in a lifetime of that extraordinary duration. I will therefore confine my few remarks to the relatively narrow period of time during which I have been privileged to know John.
My confederacy with John Hawley Kerry began many years ago when I resolved to open my own law practice. Though our legal association to that point was limited, John pledged to support me at the outset. He was good to his word. For the the next 40 years I acted as John’s lawyer. During that time I got to know him in a small but meaningful way.
It is foremost notable that during the entire period of my professional representation of John not once did he instruct me to initiate - much less prosecute - any civil action or collection claim or any other form of litigation against any of the many people with whom he conducted business in Almonte and Carleton Place - whether through the two funeral homes, the numerous residential tenancies, the retail and pharmaceutical businesses or his professional relationships with accountants, real estate agents or government intermediaries.
What prompted the avoidance of conflict was not as might be supposed some calculated business or legal stratagem. John simply hasn’t the DNA for dissension. His - by contrast - is a posture of accommodation and resolution, not divergence and vengeance. I prefer to characterize the attribute as native intelligence (though I fully suspect John would dismiss that compliment with gusto).
This avoidance of conflict is not to suggest that John was by any measure pusillanimous. Indeed he had a veritable appetite for battle under appropriate circumstances - but always guided by the proposition that he was a deal maker, not a deal breaker. If there were a difference of opinion it was nothing for him to direct me to arrange a meeting to discuss a resolution. He always picked on someone his own size. Never for example would he have considered stepping upon a subaltern to garner the appearance of standing taller. In one particular instance I was told to plan the attendance of senior government mandarins from Toronto including the local Member of Parliament. That matter ended being completely and speedily settled with a minimum of what had begun as endless and potentially costly bureaucracy and acrimony.
John is a handsome man, rich and successful by any standard. These are not qualities which normally engender modesty and passion for others. Though it is perhaps rightfully esteemed a preconceived gush to label John beneficent I believe I am entirely safe in urging that he is a fair man. He possesses what is an unqualified and uncommon prejudice to allow for the frailty of mankind. He never diminishes his indisputable standards of excellence but he has a tolerance for what he assesses to be the universal weaknesses of humanity. An exemplification of this kindness arose one morning at the Superior Restaurant during our regular breakfast confab. A number of cronies had engaged in a corporate assault against some absent witless chap. Upon the conclusion of the vindictive, John - who pointedly had not participated in the communal diatribe - summarily observed, “Well, he has his good faults!”
Perhaps more than anything I have learned that John Hawley Kerry is a gentleman of the first water. He can be relied upon under any circumstances to elevate the atmosphere with both suavity and respectability. His uncompromising sense of equality and mutual dignity prevents him from ever lapsing into the vernacular. His determination is unalterable. And his impression on me and others is equally cogent.
L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
July 10, 2019