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Clifford Kerby, former Berea mayor, dies at age 78

Dr. Clifford Franklin Kerby, a former long-time Berea mayor, died of complications from a heart attack Monday at St. Joseph Berea Hospital. He was 78.

Dr. Kerby, a general practitioner who practiced medicine in Berea from 1961 until his death, was chief of staff at Berea Hospital for several years.

He became active in politics in the early 1970s when he was elected to the Berea City Council. He moved from the council to the mayor's office in the early 1980s, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the previous mayor, who had died.

Dr. Kerby was Berea's mayor for more than 20 years. He lost a bid for re-election in 2002 and was the first Berea mayor to lose an election. He was unsuccessful in a comeback bid for mayor in 2006.

When Dr. Kerby first took office, Berea had $100,000 in the bank, no city employee retirement program and a sewage treatment plant that was falling apart.

Dr. Kerby, who was called the "anti-industry mayor" by his early opponents, helped get a grant for a new sewage treatment plant and land for an industrial park, which became home to several industries. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Berea Industrial Authority. He also was instrumental in establishing a Sister City Program in which Berea became a sister city to Hokuto City Japan.

Also during his tenure as mayor, he was involved in discussions about what to do with the nerve and mustard gas stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot. He favored incineration.

Smoking was another issue during Dr. Kerby's stint as mayor. A smoker for more than 50 years, he favored allowing smoking at Berea's city hall after some other city offices became non-smoking facilities.

Dr. Kerby, a Jackson County native, served in the Air Force during the Korean War, received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Kentucky and received his medical degree from the University of Tennessee.

He was a former member of the board of directors of Peoples Bank in Berea. At his death, he was chairman of the Madison County Airport Board, a position he had held for many years.

Dr. Kerby traveled widely, collected Russian stamps and built model ships in his spare time. He also enjoyed sports cars and road rallying, wine making, gourmet cooking and acting. One of his most notable roles was as Big Daddy in a community theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Survivors include his wife, Diane Kerby, a retired Berea College vice president for business and administration; two daughters; Valerie Lindsey and Sonja Loftis; a brother; two sisters; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Friday at Union Church in Berea. Lakes Funeral Home in Berea is handling arrangements.

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