John Kern and Tony Martin after the women's march on Roanoke January 2018
It is with great sorrow that I share this news with you, Our dear Friend, John Kern, had a massive heart attack on Saturday and died Sunday afternoon.
John was attending The Virginia Forum, a history conference at Emory and Henry College, where he had delivered a paper on Friday about Reverend Francis Griffith's role during the struggle for civil rights in Prince Edward County.
He was having lunch with his good friend, George Kegley, when he took ill. He was rushed to the hospital in Abingdon where emergency surgery was performed. According to his daughter, Margy, who was with him, he was conscious and lucid after the surgery but took a turn for the worse during the night. He passed away this afternoon in the company of his daughter and his stepson.
It is a comfort to know that he was surrounded by people he loved, having just finished an important piece of work that he was passionate about. In the first sentence of the paper he read on Friday, John wrote that "Rev. Francis Griffin held his life to the principles of human dignity, social justice, and racial equality. " The same could be said about John - and many other laudatory things besides.
There will be time in the days ahead to remember these things - and share them with one another. Of course we will have a memorial meeting for worship for John at some point. Meanwhile let us hold in the light all who loved him and are feeling this sudden loss so keenly and only just beginning to realize what this loss means.