Starting New

After 47 years in Cleveland Heights, Douglas and Mary Ann Kerr traded in their spacious family home for a fresh start at Judson Manor. That was in December 2020; and, so far, the thrill has lingered.

“I’ve never had an office like this before!” exclaims Mary Ann, pointing toward her new desks, bookcases, and walls of cabinetry: all built-ins crafted to the couple’s specifications. “Or the big closets! Or the big refrigerator!” she continues.

That the Kerr’s 10th floor apartment delights them should come as no surprise, given that the couple – she a retired clinical social worker, and he a retired physician, researcher, and professor at nearby Case Western Reserve University – had ample opportunity to help design their new digs, before making their move.

In addition to the standard updates – new quartz countertops, walk-in showers, hardwood flooring, and even new paint colors – the Kerr’s two-bedroom/two-bath apartment also boasts high ceilings, plentiful windows, and at least one feature that will never be found in a remodeling showroom: a stunning view of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance Hall, and the Wade Park Lagoon.

In fact, the allure of a tight-knit community was one of the reasons Doug, 84, and Mary Ann, 80, were drawn to the historic Judson Manor.  “We not only have a spectacular view, but we also have a wonderful, walkable neighborhood, and even a party room where we meet with our neighbors every other Wednesday – and they are all great people.”

The pull toward community seems especially strong in the Kerr’s, who have a long history of working to improve the lives of others. As a clinical social worker, Mary Ann counseled families and children from Cleveland to Kingston, Jamaica. Likewise, as a scientist and physician, Doug researched and treated childhood malnutrition during post-doctoral work at the University of the West Indies.  He subsequently served as a member of the division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, taking care of patients, and director of the Center for Inherited Disorders of Energy Metabolism at University Hospitals of Cleveland. He is also Emeritus Professor at CWRU.

In many ways, though, it was Doug’s family that forged the template for the couple’s social activism. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Doug grew up as the youngest son of faculty of the American  University of Beirut.  Doug’s older brother, Malcolm, became president of AUB. Tragically, Malcolm was assassinated on campus in 1984 by agents directed from Iran. “It was not personal,” Doug recounts. “He was a convenient target as an American in a prominent position.”

After Malcolm’s death, Doug and Mary Ann became board members of Eyewitness, making five trips to Palestine and Israel to meet with peacemakers on both sides of the conflict.  “Their steadfast commitment to human rights is an inspiration.  We have a responsibility to support them,” says Mary Ann.

On the domestic front, Mary Ann and Doug are longtime members of the United Methodist Church of the Redeemer, where they are active in reaching out to the LGBTQ community and supportive to local homeless camps and are members of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a nonpartisan organization of religious groups that works for social justice.

It is not a stretch to say the Kerr’s experiences as human-rights advocates have transformed their worldview. “Meeting people from all walks of life; seeing how people suffer and yet can be so resilient; seeing how important it is to support young families so that everybody can grow up with the desire to treat their neighbors as they would be treated,” Mary Ann commented.

Meanwhile, new adventures await at Judson Manor. “There are lots of interesting people here,” says Mary Ann, “and fun things to do: exercise classes, art classes, concerts, talks, and beautiful walks around the lagoon.”

For Doug, his twice weekly speech therapy and their trips to the exercise room have also have been a plus. And, he adds, the food is pretty good too. “I like dessert,” he says. “I’ve gained weight!”

“We really do love it here,” adds Mary Ann, noting that both she and Doug are committed to exploring all the opportunities for fellowship the Manor has to offer.

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