Skier killed in British Columbia slide well known around Aspen

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen lost a familiar face last Thursday when a longtime local was killed in an avalanche near the town of Revelstoke, British Columbia.

Richard Kerr, 46, an avid skier and bicyclist, was killed when the avalanche swept him into a tree. The trip to Canada was an annual vacation for him and some of his friends from Crested Butte, who knew, as many people in Aspen did, about Kerr’s love for backcountry skiing.

Kerr was born and raised in Princeton, Ill., the last child in a family with four daughters.

“He grew up with four older sisters,” said Karen Lukosus, his oldest sister. “He was Dad’s pride and joy, but I’m afraid we teased him a lot.”

Lukosus said her brother had a paper route as a kid, and he gained notoriety in the town when he flew a single engine airplane solo on his 16th birthday, before he had his driver’s license. He graduated from Princeton High School and then received an associate’s degree in mechanics in 1977 from Illinois Valley Community College.

Just after high school, Lukosus said her brother went on a vacation out West with some friends, and when he came back he talked a lot about how much he loved the West.

“He told our parents he was going to work for a year, save some money and go back there ” and he did,” she said.

In 1979, Kerr packed up and traveled through the West for two months, camping and finally ending up in Aspen. Once he was settled in, his parents came out with the rest of his things ” including his record player and 45s, Lukosus said.

The only job Kerr ever had in Aspen was at the Hunter Creek Condominiums, where he was eventually made head of maintenance. It was a job he kept and loved for 24 years.

Lisa Thurston and Jennifer Bennett, property managers for the condominium complex, said they have received many calls from people who remembered Kerr after hearing of his death.

“He had a very dry sense of humor ” we laughed a lot with Rich,” Bennett said. “Deep down, he was just a very kind human being who would do a lot for you.”

Even though the complex has 295 units, they said Kerr took care of everything from shoveling snow to the buildings’ boilers, roofs, plumbing and the pool.

Both Bennett and Thurston said they were surprised to hear how the skiers and guides who were with Kerr in Canada described the accident. Police determined that a guide told Kerr to stay to the right of an area, and when Kerr traveled to the left, the slide occurred.

“It makes him sound like he wasn’t a careful guy, because he skied where he wasn’t supposed to, and we thought, ‘How can that be?'” Thurston said. “I don’t think there was a more careful guy out there.”

Thurston noted that Kerr was known not only by Hunter Creek residents, but by recreation enthusiasts who would recognize him on the ski slopes and mountain bike trails.

“I’d put him at the top of the anaerobic threshold limit for this town, with the top athletes,” said Kerr’s longtime friend, John Wilkinson of Snowmass Village. “He was an Aspen Highlands regular and loved to ski in the backcountry, off the back of Highland Bowl, McClure Pass and wherever else he could.”

Kerr would maintain singletrack biking trails in the Four Corners area just as part of his passion for biking, Wilkinson said.

“I remember riding bikes with him, and I’d be out of breath and my eyes would be bloodshot from the exertion, but he’s talking about dinner,” he said, laughing.

Lukosus’ son, Nathan, 23, had visited Kerr in Aspen with some friends during the Christmas holidays, just a few weeks ago.

“Our kids grew up not seeing or knowing Richard very well, and when my son came back he said that his uncle really is a cool guy,” she said. “He was hoping to go back in January.”

Kerr is survived by his mother, Dorothy Kerr, and his four sisters and brothers-in-law, Karen and Jack Lukosus, Barbara and Paul Fuller, Cynthia and Ken Schoff and Marsha and Kim Genslinger, as well as 12 nieces and nephews and nine great-nieces and great-nephews. His father, Dale Kerr, passed away on July 2, 1995.

Information about a memorial service to be held in Aspen is pending.

A service will be held at Norberg Memorial home in Princeton, Ill., on Friday at 10:30 a.m. Memorials may be directed to the Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center at 325 Broadway St., W. S. #1, Boulder, CO, 80305.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]