Kerwin Kerr Remembered

“There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier,

Who wandered far away and soldiered far away,

There was none bolder, with good broad shoulders,

He fought in many a fray and fought and won.

He’s seen the glory, he’s told the story,

Of battles glorious and deeds victorious.

But now he’s sighing, his heart is crying,

To leave these green hills of Tyrol.”

Veteran of three wars gets a fitting sendoff

The poignant words of “The Green Hills of Tyrol,” also known as “A Scottish Soldier,” could not have been a more fitting tribute for Kerwin Kerr. The brother of this veteran of three wars sang the traditional Scottish song at his memorial service Saturday on the sprawling family homestead in the hills of McMinnville.

“The song described my brother’s life perfectly,” Jean Kerr said. “It’s about a soldier who traveled far and fought in many wars and wanted to return to the hills of Scotland. My brother traveled far and fought in many wars and wanted to return to the hills of McMinnville.”

The song was just one of the highlights of the outdoor memorial service for this highly decorated veteran that drew about 250 to the 40-acre ranch off High Heaven Road, overlooking the city. The U.S. Marine Corps gave a 21-gun salute and a bagpiper also played a rendition of “A Scottish Soldier” as friends and family remembered Kerwin D. “K.D.” Kerr.

Kerr died Dec. 29 in a rest home in Elizabethtown, Ky. He fell victim to a lengthy illness at the age of 86.

The Marines presented a U.S. flag to Kerr’s oldest son, Kerwin D. Kerr II. The urns carrying the ashes of Kerwin II’s father and mother were placed side by side in a Port Orford cedar box built by Jean Kerr and buried.

“It was a real nice ceremony,” said Capt. Colin Armstrong, a former Yamhill County commissioner who attended in full Navy dress to honor his lifelong friend. Both members of McMinnville High School’s Class of 1941, Armstrong and Kerr chose military paths before attending Oregon State University together after World War II.

Kerr was born June 28, 1921, in Dayton, son of Henry and Silva (Hewitt) Kerr. He grew up on the ranch overlooking McMinnville. After graduation from Mac High, he settled in Tigard.

The fighter pilot served his country in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He served in the Navy and Marine Corps, eventually advancing to the rank of major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Kerr earned two distinguished flying crosses and six air medals. He received gold aviator wings and 14 decoration ribbons and badges for his expertise with a rifle, pistol and sharpshooter carbine.

He married Winona Yap of Hilo, Hawaii, after World War II. She preceded him in death.

Kerr earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University. He went to Kentucky as a land surveyor with the Corps of Engineers. He served as county surveyor for several years in Kentucky’s Nelson County, where he also farmed.

This article was published on August 5, 2008 in the McMinnville, Oregon, News Register
Contact Ty Walker 503-472-5114 ex 269 or

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