Eric D. Kerr passed away at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on October 16, 2009, after a long battle with lung disease. Eric was born in a small Ozark rural community near Gipsy, MO, on February 21, 1930. He lived on the farm with his father, developing a passion for agriculture that he retained for the rest of his life. After completing a B.S. degree at the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1951, he enlisted in the United States Navy where he served in the Korean War.
After four years of service in the Navy, Eric returned to the University of Missouri, where he completed an M.S. degree in 1960. His passion for agriculture then took him to the University of Nebraska, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology working on a project involving nematode pathogens in wheat under the direction of Max Schuster. Upon graduation in 1967, he worked for a short time as a research plant pathologist with the USDA-ARS (National Center of Pollution Control, Cincinnati, OH). In December 1967, he assumed the position as the first full-time extension plant pathologist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, NE, where he remained until his retirement in March 1998.
During his 30-year career in Scottsbluff, Eric contributed substantially to solving the problems of Nebraska producers, particularly in the area of nematology. He established effective nematocidal treatments against sugar beet nematodes, and determined the threshold levels of nematode populations from field soils for justifying economical nematocide treatments. He also studied nematode diseases of corn and the carry-over effects of nematocidal soil treatments in a corn-dry bean-sugar beet rotation. He further developed a forecasting system for predicting optimal time periods for applying fungicides for Cercospora leaf spot control in sugar beets (which is still in use today). Eric’s primary motivation was helping people, and his easy-going personality led to fruitful collaborations among faculty in Scottsbluff and also with various industry personnel. This is further illustrated by his regular collaborations with numerous Lincoln-based faculty in the biological control of Rhizoctonia root rot in sugar beets, and control of white mold, rust, and bacterial diseases of dry beans.
After moving to Western Nebraska, Eric met Joyce Marie Drury, whom he married in 1980. He not only found the love of his life but became the father of her two daughters, Robin and Jole, who he loved and raised as his own. Eric was a passionate man who took great pride in his family and professional career. He completed all projects including hobbies with perfection. In fact, even after retiring, Eric still processed soil samples in the basement of his home, identifying and estimating populations of cyst nematodes as a service for sugar beet producers.
He was preceded in death by his wife Joyce Marie (Drury) Kerr. Eric is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Robin and Douglas Clark and their 4 children (Cassandra, Mariah, Jacob, and Molly); and daughter and son-in-law, Jole and David Sandblom.
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