A private family service is planned for Ralph T. Kerchum, 81, former member
of the Amtrak board of directors and retired Oakland schoolteacher, who died
Sunday in Piedmont after a long illness.
Mr. Kerchum served on the Amtrak board from 1982 to 1990, a dream assignment
for a devoted student of railroads and streetcars.
He was a native of Oakland and a graduate of the University of California at
Mr. Kerchum claimed to have at least one photograph of a streetcar in every
city in the world. In the 1950s, when he was principal of Piedmont Avenue
School, he took each class on a ride on the Key System electric train to San
Francisco so they could tell their children years later that they rode a train
on the Bay Bridge.
One of his last train rides was last December aboard a private Amtrak railway
car on the inaugural run of the Capitol trains to Sacramento. Mr. Kerchum
relaxed in a high-backed chair and greeted politicians and reporters.
He served in the Army, Navy and Air Force and retired as an Air Force Reserve
In addition to his work at Piedmont Avenue School, Mr. Kerchum was a
principal of Laurel School and a coach and counselor at Oakland High School.
Among his students was Edwin Meese [Class of 1949], who later became attorney general and
counselor to the president during the Reagan administration. He also taught
baseball and football star Jackie Jensen [Class of 1945].
His other jobs included work as a park ranger and assistant U.S. postmaster.
He was a member of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society,
California-Nevada Railroad Historical Society and the Bay Area Electric Railroad
Mr. Kerchum's survivors include a brother, Milo of Oakland.
A funeral service is to be held September 24 at a location to be announced.
Mr. Kerchum preferred that donations be made to the American Heritage Center,
University of Wyoming, Box 3924, Laramie, Wyo. 82041; St. George's Church, 94
Ninth Street, Oakland 94607; or a favorite charity.