Gerald “Jerry” Lee Karr
Oct. 15, 1936 – Dec. 8, 2019
EMPORIA — Gerald “Jerry” Lee Karr died Dec. 8, 2019, at Holiday Resort, Emporia, after several hospitalizations related to cancer. He was 83.
Jerry was born Oct. 15, 1936, in Emporia, the oldest of eight children born to Orren and Kathleen Keller Karr.x
He grew up on a farm north of Emporia and graduated from Americus High School. He attended the College of Emporia and later received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, in 1959, from Kansas State College where he was a member of FarmHouse Fraternity.
He married Sharon Kay Studer Karr Oct. 18, 1959, in Manhattan. She preceded him in death.
After their marriage, Jerry and Sharon moved to Belleville, Ill., where he managed the livestock operations for Eckhert’s Orchard Farms. The couple later relocated to Carbondale, Ill., where both began graduate school at Southern Illinois University. Jerry obtained his master’s degree in agricultural economics in 1962 and doctorate in economics in 1966. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1959 to 1965.
Jerry’s family moved in 1964 to Warrensburg, Mo., where he served as assistant professor of economics at Central Missouri State College. From 1967 to 1972, he held a faculty position with the University of Illinois-Urbana. As part of a USAID grant through the University of Illinois, Jerry served for three years as the department head of agricultural economics and extension at Njala University College located in Sierra Leone, West Africa. In 1972, he relocated his family to Wilmington, Ohio, where he served as the head of the department of agriculture and manager of the school farms at Wilmington College.
In 1976, he left academia and returned to his agricultural roots in Kansas. He and Sharon purchased a family farm near Emporia, not far from his parents’ homestead. Jerry began a farrow to finish hog operation and expanded his crop holdings into Kenoma Farms with his son, Kevin. He remained actively involved in the farm and enjoyed working in the fields with his grandchildren.
From 1981 to 1998, Jerry served as state senator for the Kansas 17th Senate District and represented his constituents in Lyon, Chase, Marion, Morris, Geary, Wabaunsee and Osage counties. He served as the senate minority leader from 1991 to 1996 and was the ranking minority member of the senate agriculture committee. Jerry successfully advocated for the passage of several bills, including the 1981 farm corporation bill, the 1986 economic development bill and 1992 public school finance law.
Upon his retirement from the Kansas Senate, Jerry was formally recognized by his colleagues as “an effective, pragmatic politician, leading his party and working with Republican majorities to craft legislation to spur the economy and to help working families.”
During his legislative career, Jerry most enjoyed meeting his constituents at local community events throughout his senate district. In 2004, Jerry was appointed as co-chair of the Kansas Wind and Prairie Task Force, which identified areas of the Tallgrass Prairie appropriate for preservation and wind energy development.
He was an active member of many civic and nonprofit organizations, including the Emporia Chamber of Commerce, Salvation Army of Emporia, YMCA Camp Wood, Emporia Kiwanis Club, Lyon County Democrats, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas Pork Association, Lyon County Livestock Association and Kansas State University Alumni Association. Jerry also served as a board member for nonprofit organizations and volunteered countless hours for local charities and community events. He was a longtime member of Americus Methodist Church.
Besides his wife, he was preceded in death by his parents, Orren and Kathleen Karr and a brother, Steven Karr.
He is survived by a son, Kevin Karr and wife, Sandy, Emporia; a daughter, Kelly Getty and husband, Chris, Abilene; four brothers, Robert Karr and wife, Elaine, Emporia, Mickey Karr and wife, Karen, Americus, Marion Karr and wife, Rosemarie, Wiesbaden, Germany, and Dennis Karr and wife, Cathy, Indianapolis, Ind.; two sisters, Erma Jean Riley and husband, Bill, Manhattan, and Colleen McKinney and husband, Alan, Independence, Mo.; a sister-in-law, Susan (Curry) Karr, Gardner; nine grandchildren, Olin (Michaela), Krisanne, Randal, Alisha, Kailey, Paige and Joe Karr, all of Emporia and Kaylin and Justin Getty, both of Abilene; and a great-granddaughter, Cassidy Karr, Emporia.
Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 at First United Methodist Church, Emporia. Interment will follow at Rosean Cemetery, north of Emporia. Visitation will be 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, at First United Methodist Church, Emporia.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Salvation Army of Emporia, YMCA Camp Wood, Emporia Kiwanis Club or Americus Methodist Church and sent in care of Roberts-Blue-Barnett Funeral Home, P.O. Box 175, Emporia, KS 66801.