Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Ted Kerwin, a lifelong Hermosa Beach resident who helped put the town on the map as a Southern Californian surfing destination, has died. He was 89.
Kerwin's last name is a familiar one in the city, where some of his brothers and one sister are honored next to him on the Surfers Walk of Fame - a series of plaques embedded in the pier. The large, active family grew up in a home above their parents' bakery on what is now Pier Avenue.
Kerwin was the second youngest of nine children, of whom only one is still living. Kerwin died on Nov. 26 at his home on Monterey Boulevard after suffering a series of ailments. His son, Scott Kerwin, said that he essentially died of "old age."
"In his words, he was out of gas," Scott Kerwin said. "He was just worn out. He got progressively weaker and he didn't like that because he was a pretty active guy."
Ted's oldest brother, John Kerwin, founded the Hermosa Beach Surfing Club in 1934. By then, surfing had become second nature to the family. They could see the beach from their home above Kerwin's Bakery and Lunch Room, and all the brothers worked as lifeguards before World War II.
After the war began, Ted Kerwin brought his ocean knowledge to the South Pacific as the pilot of a landing barge in the Solomon Islands, according to Scott Kerwin.
"Although the Hermosa Beach Surfing Club re-formed after the war, and most of the old gang still held court on the beach north of the pier, the responsibilities of growing families didn't allow a return to the glory days," Scott Kerwin said.
Ted Kerwin met a fellow surfer named Dotty on the beach. They got married in 1948 and began their family a year later, when the first of five children was born. Ted worked as a manager at a dime store before becoming a general manager for the former Toy World franchise in the late 1960s.
As his home grew and his responsibilities increased, Ted largely stopped surfing. But he never stopped spending his free time on the ocean. He bought his first fishing boat in the 1960s, named it the "Teedor," and regularly took his family fishing and snorkeling, said his children.
His love of football sometimes eclipsed even his passion for the ocean, said Scott Kerwin. In his last weeks, he delighted in watching his favorite teams, the UCLA Bruins and Notre Dame's Fighting Irish.
"In spite of an uncooperative, weakening body that couldn't match his strong spirit, a little more than a week before he passed on, Ted mustered the energy to cheer his Bruin football team to victory over USC," Scott Kerwin said. "It illustrates the passion, interest and spirit of fun that he invested in everything that he did."
Though Pier Plaza is now solely commercial, the building that housed the Kerwin family and bakery still stands where the Palmilla Restaurant and Bonaparte Cafe are located. In those days, the city was a summer resort destination.
Ted Kerwin told the Daily Breeze in 2007 - the year Hermosa Beach celebrated its centennial anniversary - that, despite decades of change, many things remained the same.
"You talk about wall-to-wall people now," he said. "When I was young, you couldn't get through to the beach. It was a resort in the summertime."
His parents, John and Mary Kerwin, were honored in 2008 with a sequoia tree planting at South Park. Mary Kerwin's father, John Hiss, built the first school in Hermosa Beach. John Kerwin moved to the city in 1909 from Ireland. He married Mary and opened the family bakery the following year.
"At the time, the city of Hermosa Beach consisted of a vast expanse of sand with isolated houses and commercial buildings scattered amongst the sand dunes," said Scott Kerwin. The Kerwin kids had "the ocean and beach as their playground."
Ted Kerwin is survived by his wife, Dotty; children Scott, Brad, Bonnie, Duff and Casey; and grandchildren Jason, Adrian, Darcy, Rory, Brendan, Emma, Teddy, Duffy and Maddie. His only surviving sibling is brother Jim Kerwin, 91, of Ojai.
A memorial service will be held at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 12 at St. James Church, 415 Vincent Street in Redondo Beach.