William Earl Kern


William Earl Kern, 95 years of age, passed away peacefully at his Pagosa Springs home with his wife, Billie Jo, by his side Feb. 9. He was born in Coyle, Okla., on July 21, 1922, to the Rev. William Ervin Kern and Maudy Ethel (Boyer) Kern.

His childhood was spent in Oklahoma with his family as his father traveled from town to town preaching the gospel. The family moved to California in the late 1930s to find work and a better life.

On Oct. 10, 1942, “Earl” voluntarily joined the United States Navy because of the attack on Pearl Harbor. While in the service, he was stationed on the islands of New Hebrides and New Caledonia in the South West Pacific Ocean, 750 miles east of Australia. Earl was going to be fighting as a frontline medic at the Battle of Saipan, but had an appendix attack just before boarding the ship for Saipan. While he was in the service, he saw one of Bob Hope’s shows and shook the hand of Eleanor Roosevelt. He received an honorable discharge as a pharmacist’s mate, second class on Oct. 24, 1945.

While on leave and visiting home, Earl met Billie Jo “Toots” Adkisson in Paradise, Calif. One month and three letters later, they married on June 29, 1945, in Oakland, Calif. They were married for 72 years until his death.

After the Navy, Earl worked at several lumber mills as a grader in Northern California. After 16 years, they finally had a son, Robert Wade Kern. Earl was a very proud father and showed off his new son to everyone he could.

In 1962, Earl, Billie Jo and their 1-year-old son moved to Pagosa Springs, Colo., where Earl worked as a grader for San Juan Lumber Company at the corner of U.S. 160 and U.S. 84. He was promoted to lumber grader foreman.

In the 1960s, Earl and Billie Jo, Melvin and Lorene Lord, and Ivan “Jim” and Glenna Looper built the First Assembly of God Church in Pagosa, more recently known as Boot Hill Saddlery. In the ‘70s, the same trio of families built the existing First Assembly of God Church on Put Hill.

Upon retiring from San Juan Lumber, Earl became the manager of Piedra Valley Ranch, where they lived for 25 years. His hobby was working and being productive. He was the ranch’s No. 1 backhoe operator.

Earl is survived by his wife, Billie Jo Kern, son Robert W. Kern and daughter-in-law Leslie. He had four grandchildren: Robert Wade Kern Jr., William David Kern (Laura), Jamie Lee Saaranen (Joel) and Carrie Ann Renner (Dan). He had five great-grandkids: his oldest and namesake, William Daniel; Lydia; Johnathan; Abigail and Henry. He also had a sister, Pearl Meyers; a brother, Samuel Kern; and his brother-in-law, Donnie Adkission; and sisters-in-law Marcella Criswell and Christine Knopp. His sister-in-law Carroll Amator and her husband Albert were very special to him. He enjoyed their many visits to Pagosa Springs.

He was a devout Christian, husband, father, grandfather and patriot. He was the first one to remove his hat and place his hand over his heart during the national anthem or when the flag passed by. He loved his family and country very much. He never failed to provide for his wife and son. He was an important example to the Kern men in manhood and the Kern girls in the type of gentleman they needed to marry. He was a good man with amazing work ethic and excellent character who will be forever missed.

The family will have a private memorial at a later date.