First, let me say how happy and proud I am that so many organizations have honored the memory of my wife, Gail Kerr, since her death March 25. I have participated with enthusiasm in the ceremonies and events I believe she would also have been happy to support. She knew about two of them before she died: Gail Kerr’s House the Homeless Fund and the “Not So” Sure Shot Rabbit Hunters Association charity fund-raising event.
With The Tennessean, she was about to launch the House the Homeless project for How’s Nashville this spring. She would have been so pleased at the results because the issue of homelessness in Nashville was something she took to heart. After coming face to face with so many homeless people when she volunteered to serve them lunches at Downtown Presbyterian Church for several years, she knew the need to fix the problem. Gail saw the success of How’s Nashville and realized they had found a way that works. Her House the Homeless project ended in July and raised over $50,000, more than ten times the amount that Gail had envisioned. She would have been so happy about the response from the community.
This year, Fate Thomas, Jr., resurrected the “Not So” Sure Shot Rabbit Hunters Association Dinner started by his colorful father as a charity event. He contacted Gail and me about honoring her. We were looking forward to attending. Some of the proceeds from the event were donated to Gail Kerr’s House the Homeless Fund and I know she would have appreciated that.
Other recognitions involving Multiple Sclerosis events in which Gail was active (she was diagnosed with MS in 2000), the Human Relations Commission, Tennessee’s General Assembly and the Bluebird Café were embraced by our family.
I am very grateful that those organizations sought my approval for these honors.
There were seven major events honoring Gail between her death in March and mid-August. And, again, I am enthusiastic about these causes that she would have also supported. However, requests are still coming and I am now respectfully declining them, at least for the foreseeable future.
Respect for our family’s emotions
Our family appreciates the accolades bestowed upon Gail since her death. However, with each one, we are reminded all too vividly that she is gone. Nashville and the world lost a heroic, powerful voice wrapped up in honesty, courage and humor. We lost a wife, daughter, sister, aunt and great aunt, as well as the love she shared with all of us on a very personal level. I have broken into tears a couple of times accepting awards on her behalf. I have also made it through accepting some of these honors without crying. However, I have begun to weep while walking down courthouse steps and other locations minutes after the ceremonies.
During this time, we also dealt with her birthday and what would have been our twenty-first wedding anniversary. It was not easy. While we are so proud of Gail’s legacy, we need an emotional break.
It is my belief that the integrity of the impact she had will be diluted if too many organizations and individuals use her name for awards and honors. Gail was a very special person and knew when not to spread herself too thin regarding commitments. I intend to continue that philosophy regarding honors and awards that use her name.
This relates to the integrity of her name, as well. I believe that if every organization or individual who has requested the use of Gail’s name for an award or honor went through with those events, people would begin to say, “Oh, it’s another ‘Gail Kerr’ award.” I would never want that to happen.
I appreciate the fact that certain individuals and entities realize that having Gail’s name attached to their cause or enterprise would help it. Sometimes, however, it’s obvious that’s the only reason for the request. My question is, then, “Where were you last year when she could have enjoyed this?” Gail’s memory deserves more than that.
Thanks for your understanding
Again, I appreciate all of the honors for Gail that I have approved and that she would have enjoyed. I am also grateful that other groups and individuals think enough of her name to want it to be associated with them. I am sure that as time passes, there will be some that are completely appropriate for the use of Gail’s name. I may welcome those opportunities. But for the time being, thanks for understanding that I may, “just say no,” to other requests.
Text and photos copyright 2014 by Les Kerr