Longtime Warwick Beacon reporter Joseph E. Kernan of Warwick passed away either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. He had had an extensive battle with Guillain Barre Syndrome and related aliments that forced him to leave the Beacon in 2015.
Mr. Kernan, 76, was born in Boston. He was one of six children of the late Edward Kernan Sr. and Louise Mahoney Kernan.
Described as a “walking encyclopedia and a literary man” by former Beacon editor Mark Silberstein, Mr. Kernan found his love for the printed word as a high school student. He graduated from Boston Technical where he was enrolled in the printing program.
His only surviving sibling, Donald Kernan of Hanover, MA, recalls his brother working at the rare bookstore Good Speed’s on Beacon Hill in Boston and starting his career as a newspaper reporter in upstate New York. Mr. Kernan worked as a beat reporter for the Providence Journal and after leaving the Journal became a general assignment reporter in 1993 for the Warwick Beacon, where he quickly assumed the role of the police beat and obituary editor. He frequently wrote the feature story for the Lifebeats second section to the Warwick Beacon and Cranston Herald.
Beacon editor and publisher John Howell remembers Mr. Kernan for his remarkable memory and quirky humor that enlivened the newsroom and found its way into his coverage.
“Long before there was Google, there was Joe,” said Howell. “Ask him virtually anything from when Genghis Kahn invaded modern day Kazakhstan to what was the police chief’s favorite dessert and he had an answer, and if he didn’t know, he’d have an answer that would surely bring a laugh.”
In recent years, Mr. Kernan, who was on oxygen, became less and less mobile. He wanted no part of an assisted living facility and maintained his independence living alone. That would not have been possible without the assistance of Steve Peoples, who he came to know through the Beacon. Peoples prodded Mr. Kernan to remain active, getting him out of his apartment for shopping runs, taking him to doctor appointments and checking in on him two and three times a week.
“He was Mister Jeopardy,” Peoples said of Mr. Kernan, who never missed the show and had the answer to every question. “He was my best friend,” Peoples said tearfully.
Mr. Kernan maintained minimal contact with his family, although he kept some correspondence with his nieces and nephews. He will be remembered by them as a “loving uncle with an acerbic wit. He was pithy, punny and had an uncommon appreciation for beauty, history and books.” He was a “sucker” for a riddle or a puzzle.
Mr. Kernan is survived by his son Benjamin Ascher of New York City and his brother Donald and many nieces and nephews.
Mr. Kernan was the brother to the late Edward Kernan, Bernard Kernan, Paul Joseph Kernan and Mary Stanton.
A memorial service is in the planning for next spring.