Janice Kerr, office chief, merrymaker

Posted: October 07, 2012

Janice Kerr, 78, of Upper Chichester, a retired medical office administrator, who later brought joy to many children and others by performing as a clown at area schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, died Sunday, Sept. 30, of complications of heart disease at Taylor Hospice in Ridley Park.

After retiring from a long career as a medical office administrator for a surgeon at Bryn Mawr Hospital in 1996, Mrs. Kerr devoted herself to the role of "Jaepers" the clown, lifting the spirits of patients and schoolchildren.

She would wear a red, white, and yellow clown suit with oversized red shows, blond wig, and red hat, said her husband, Harry Kerr.

He said clowning became her passion. "She would buy red rubber noses by the hundreds and give them out to the children she visited," Kerr said.

He said she especially liked to visit Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children, in Wilmington, which she visited monthly.

In 2008, she received the Governor's Outstanding Volunteer Award, from Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Mrs. Kerr, a longtime resident of Upper Chichester, was born June 23, 1934, in Ridley Park.

Raised in Broomall, Mrs. Kerr graduated from Marple Newtown High School in 1951 and later attended the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1983, a friend introduced her to Harry Kerr, a sales executive for General Motors, whom she married a year later.

After retiring in 1996 after many years as an office manager, Mrs. Kerr and her husband took a two-month driving trip from Upper Chichester to Fairbanks, Alaska.

When she returned, she asked the pastor of her church, Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Wilmington, if she could establish a clown ministry there.

Mrs. Kerr then launched Merry Makers Clown Ministry, which she expanded over the years to include 42 members who performed at schools and hospitals throughout the area. She also was a member of Clowns of America International.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Kerr is survived by two stepdaughters, Lynda Bennington and Julia Ward; a stepson, Joseph Kerr; a sister, Betsy Fraser; six stepgrandchildren; and a stepgreat-grandson.

A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 8, at Concord Liberty Presbyterian Church, 256 Bethel Road, Glen Mills. Visitation is from 9:30 to 10:45 at the church. Interment will be at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill.

Contact Vernon Clark

at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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