Longtime Beaufort chiropractor, civic volunteer R. Ray Kearns died Wednesday

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 3, 2014 

Ray Kearns Sr.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

As a member of the Beaufort Jaycees, Kearns and his wife, Jean, helped organize the first Beaufort Water Festival in 1956. In 1964, he served as the festival's ninth commodore.

Longtime Beaufort chiropractor and past Water Festival commodore R. Ray Kearns Sr. spent more than 60 years serving and entertaining the Beaufort community.

As a member of the Beaufort Jaycees, Kearns and his wife, Jean, helped organize the first Beaufort Water Festival in 1956. In 1964, he served as the festival's ninth commodore.

"They were in it from the very beginning," his daughter Holly Lambert said. "We've always participated."

Kearns died Wednesday. He was 88.

As a decorated World War II veteran, Kearns served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded. When he returned home, Kearns was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism.

In 1945, Kearns married Jean in New York City and went to Lincoln Chiropractic College in Indianapolis. In 1949, he returned to Beaufort to open his office.

Over more than 60 years, Kearns touched every part of the community, Lambert said.

In 1951, Kearns joined the Beaufort Rotary Club and served as its treasurer for 50 years, eventually earning the club's Paul Harris Fellowship and having 54 years of perfect attendance, Lambert said.

Heavily involved in sports and service, Kearns was a longtime member of Beaufort's Outboard Motorboat Club, Power Squadron and youth tennis clinics. He even served, for a short time, as a special deputy for then-Beaufort County Sheriff Ed McTeer, and as a magistrate and assistant city judge, Lambert said.

"The only things he did not do? He did not go snow skiing, and he did not go scuba diving," she said.

For more than 50 years, Kearns played golf several times a week with a group of Beaufort residents that took to calling themselves the 9-1-1 Club. The games started with a four-man group including Kearns, but now boasts 18 regular players, said Henry Jackson, one of the original four.

"We're the 9-1-1 Golf Club because everyone that played in it originally had a medical problem," Jackson laughed.

Friends since their first round of golf, Jackson and Kearns had been close since and volunteered together at the Water Festival -- Jackson serving as commodore three years after Kearns.

"He was involved with everything you could get involved with," Jackson said. "He was a go-getter."

Kearns was a member of the Baptist Church of Beaufort for more than 40 years. He served as an usher and always sat in the same pew, Lambert said. Their mother, Jean, attended Episcopal services, she said.

On many Sundays, Lambert and her siblings, Ray and Connie, would attend both services, she remembered.

"Once we were through with our services over (with Mom), we'd go hit the 11 o'clock with Daddy," she laughed. "We knew right where to find him -- that same pew."

Kearns is survived by his wife, three children, nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Anderson Funeral Home and Crematory. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the Baptist Church of Beaufort, with burial in St. Helena Cemetery.

Contributions may be made to Honor Flight Savannah, P.O. Box 60167, Savannah, GA 31420.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

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