With grit, vision and sparkling Irish optimism, Bob Kern turned life's challenges into golden opportunities for his family, his colleagues, and the companies and communities he loved.
On the business stage, Kern was a visionary in pioneering new real estate concepts in the metro Atlanta region and throughout North America. Since founding Kern & Company in 1977—and as president of Cornerstone Development Partners—Kern earned a national reputation as a dynamic developer of commercial real estate. Prior to his real estate ventures, Kern forged a successful executive career at the IBM Corporation, where he made his early mark as the company's top salesman in North America and worldwide.
The passion and intensity Kern brought to business was even more evident in his enduring love of family, loyalty to country and devotion to his Catholic faith. Known for his whimsical sense of humor and talent for telling a rousing story, Kern entertained and motivated everyone who knew him—neighbors, classmates, fellow pilots, salesmen, employees, clergy, golfing partners and friends.
"Bob always said, 'The day you stop laughing is the day you accept defeat,'" said his friend, John Franciscus. "He always found a way to create solutions, to win, to uplift others, and to bring a positive spirit of fun into every situation."
Robert Fleming Kern, 81, died on January 1, 2015. He was born on August 16, 1933 in St. Louis, Missouri to Helen McHale Kern and Roy Creel Kern. His family moved to Ohio, where Kern grew up, working multiple part-time jobs after school to help his working-class family. He was a devoted altar server for his childhood parish, St. Mary Church in Cincinnati's Hyde Park neighborhood.
Following graduation from Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton—where he honed his extraordinary skills as a motivational speaker-Kern enrolled at Miami University in Oxford Ohio. He distinguished himself as a student and ROTC cadet, while working as a waiter and running a lawn care service to pay his college expenses. Kern received a Bachelor of Sciences degree in political science from Miami University in 1955 .
Kern was awarded a commission in the U.S. Air Force, excelled in flight school, and served his country as a fighter pilot with the 444th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, flying surveillance missions for the Strategic Command Force in Central, North and South America.
Bob and Jann Flaherty first met in childhood, were married on June 20, 1959 at her family's home church, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Brentwood, Calif. With love of family and deep roots of faith at the center of their lives, they began their 55 year journey. They would move to San Juan Puerto Rico, give birth to their two children, and Bob would embark on his career with IBM. The CEO of IBM, Thomas Watson soon tapped him to lead global sales at their New York headquarters. They later moved to Dallas, Texas where Bob began his real estate career working for Great Southwest Corporation and later the Vantage Company as Executive Vice President.
Kern moved to Atlanta in 1970 where he would have a career with Paul Duke and Cousins Properties before forming his own company. He and Jann became longtime members of Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Deeply proud of his Irish heritage, Kern served on the host committee for Atlanta's St. Patrick's Day Ball, and was a charter member of The Shamrock Society, a group of Irish and Irish-American leaders in Atlanta who support the values of family, faith and charity.
Kern is survived by his beloved wife of 55 years, Jann; two children, Kelly Kern Collins of Roswell, Georgia. and Kevin Kern of Atlanta; five grandchildren, Flaherty, Hannah and Ella Collins, and their father Joseph Linwood Collins and Sarah and Carter Kern, and their mother Julie Lavalle Kern, and a sister, Joan Kern Reiner of Seattle, Washington. He is preceded in death by his brother, Don Kern.
A memorial Mass will be held on Wednesday January 7, 2015 at 11:30 a.m. at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, officiated by Monsignor Edward J. Dillon, 4465 Northside Drive Northwest, Atlanta, Georgia 30327. A reception will follow the service. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Hospice Atlanta, 1244 Park Vista Drive Northeast, Atlanta Georgia 30319 and Reflections Ministries, One Piedmont Center, Suite 130, Atlanta, Georgia 30305.