Obituary - Ralph Kerchum - Teacher

Ralph T. Kerchum
Coach and Counselor

© Published on on August 19, 1992

Ralph Thomas Kerchum

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 Berkeley.

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 lieutenant colonel.

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 Association.

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.