The End of An Era

On Sunday, December 18, 2022 at 4:17 p.m. EST, Raymond William Kerrison, 92, died after a brief illness, surrounded by family.

Born March 2, 1930 to Percy James Kerrison and Mary Ann McBride in Adelaide, Australia, Kerrison was the youngest of six children behind Fred, Loretta, Carmel, Mary, and John.

He was preceded in death by his wife of nearly 60 years, Monica (nee Kirby) in 2012, his daughter Maria Terese in 1963, and a son, John Gerard in 1964.

He is survived by his daughters, Catherine, Loretta, Louise and Francesca and sons, Damien, Gregory and Patrick, in addition to 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Kerrison lived his life with an unassuming nature, an unwavering faith in God and a staunch immovable approach to journalism where facts eclipsed opinion with every word he wrote.

Whether politics or the ponies, he made his mark and was the quintessential New York columnist.

His first role as a journalist came at The Murray Pioneer when their editor Arch Grosvenor asked if he would ever be interested in becoming a reporter. He replied, “I tried everything else there is, why not give this a go.” At that moment, a writing legend took his first steps.

From there Kerrison moved to the Adelaide News in October 1952. Fifteen months later he applied for, and got, a role with the Australian Associated Press. Working for a man he referred to as a tyrant, he gave notice after six months and moved to London to get a job on a Fleet Street paper to better learn the business.

After a time in London, he lost that job and referred to it as one of the absolute worst times of his life. He, his wife and two small children then made their way to America in 1956. Many years later he said that very firing was the turning point of his life. He met with an old friend of his who later introduced him to Rupert Murdoch. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to the mid-1970’s when he worked as the editor for The National Star. After serving in that role for a while, he tendered his resignation to Murdoch telling him, in essence, “If I wanted to edit a woman’s magazine, I’d go to the Ladies Home Journal, not this …. ‘paper.’  “

Murdoch told him to sit tight. He had something in the works.

At the end of 1976, Murdoch took possession of the New York Post. On January 1, 1977, Kerrison started his career as a turf writer which garnered immediate attention.

Time magazine reported that Murdoch planned on “upping the racing presence in New York,” and it began with Kerrison’s appointment.

Two local competing papers – the Daily News and Newsday – made a mad dash to find and hire the best turf writers they could, to keep pace. They hired terrific racing columnists, both indeed, but neither were the investigative journalist Kerrison was.

His approach was simple.  Simple and aggressive.  Kerrison vowed to protect the $2 bettor. American racing writers were mere publicity agents at that time. No one caused a stir and the pot laid dormant. Everything in the racing world was going to change, and it did. It changed at Kerrison’s doing.

Turf writers made their animosity known. Racing officials became guarded and, for the most part, trainers and jockeys wanted no part of this Kerrison. He created a demand for accountability from racing officials and racing personnel. Turf writers were pressed to work for a living. Those on the inside, who were well protected, were now vulnerable. Not everyone embraced this change and Kerrison’s daily life at the racetrack was made to be a rather trying one.

However, he was not one to yield in order to satiate the needs of the lazy or the less than respectable.

Quite simply, Kerrison never cared for their opinions. Facts were crucial. Facts were his professional love language. The punters adored him because he had their backs and never quit on them.

Case in point:

It was not long into his tenure at the New York Post that he got the story of the decade. He heard rumblings of a vet who was bringing two horses into the States from Uruguay that looked a lot alike. One of them, however, was considerably better than the other. The plan was simple.  Let the slow one run a few races and make the bettors think he couldn’t beat an ailing three-legged donkey. This way, the next time he runs the bettors have such little confidence of that horse his odds become so ridiculously high.

Once the vet felt convinced that was the case, he switched them. He ran the good horse who looked just like the not so good horse. The good one would circle the field and win easily. Meanwhile, as a result, the veterinarian and his crooked cronies are walking to the windows to collect a bucket load of money.

But not for long.

Kerrison told his bosses and they sent him to Uruguay to look deeper. They even had three NYPD Detectives tag-along. They learned the vet’s wife was a major player in this scam, too. When all was said and done and the bad guys caught, they were prosecuted, jailed and barred from racing for life.

This expose put Kerrison on the map. He won The Page One Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Silurian Award, bestowed by veteran journalists to outstanding journalist of the year. The two biggest awards the biggest city in the world offered. He was pleased to have earned both, but neither defined him. Those stories were written. There was more work to do.

He was told that he won a Pulitzer for the story, but the committee overturned it and gave it to some fella in Connecticut. The rumor was it was overturned because they’d never give it to someone who wrote for the Post. Truth be told Kerrison never totally bought into those rumors and made zero efforts to follow-up and see if that was truth. It was not his way. His humility and quiet confidence didn’t lend itself to accolades. A nomination for a Pulitzer was just as good to him. His interest was in facts, great investigative journalism and protecting the horseplayer.

That is who he was working for – the horseplayer. 

For those who were interested however, over the next 30 years every major newspaper in New York had won a Pulitzer Prize. All but one. The New York Post.

In later years he, along with fellow racing columnist John Piesen, also helped to uncover the single biggest horserace fixing scam in New York’s racing history. At its end, some went to jail and died there; some lost their riding license and received lifetime bans and some were suspended for a period.

It rattled the racing community and turned it on its ear. Front page news again and again. The best of the best was implicated yet Kerrison focused only on the truth, regardless of consequences and the thugs in the background orchestrating things.

This was Kerrison’s modus operandi. Understated, unassuming, quiet confidence and relentless drive to find the truth, uncover it, and make sure the horseplayer gets a fair shake.

Prior to getting his dream job of being paid to go to the horse track, he also covered some stories of a lifetime.

Arthur Miller, his parents, and Marilyn Monroe

• Three months after landing in America, he had gotten an assignment to go to Waterbury, CT to the residence of author Arthur Miller. He brought his wife along and took home movies of their visit. Because when Marilyn Monroe is five feet away from you, you make it a point to document it with film. Miller and Monroe married that same day at the residence.

• Shortly after that, Kerrison was on a boat tour around Manhattan with Elizabeth Taylor and her husband at the time, Mike Todd.

• He interviewed a parade of entertainers – Audrey Hepburn, Sammy Davis, Jr., Judy Garland, and Liberace to name a small handful.

Having a cigarette with Audrey Hepburn

• He met, was invited to sit with, and spent 30 minutes talking to Dr. Martin Luther King on a 1963 flight to Birmingham.

• He covered Elvis Presley’s debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.

• He took a train ride from Denver, CO to Salt Lake City, UT sitting beside John Wayne for every mile, as the Duke was drinking scotch, smoking cigars and carrying on about the movie biz.

• He covered America’s first flight into space at Cape Canaveral.

• He spent three days in the Utah desert with actor Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck and Dad

• He spent seven days in New Orleans covering Roger Moore in his first Bond film – Live and Let Die.

• He has lunched with Charlton Heston, Anthony Quinn, Ernest Borgnine, Phil Silvers, and Ricardo Montalban.

• He was blind-folded and taken to a secret location on Long Island to interview Svetlanov Stalin – daughter of Premiere Russian Leader, Josef Stalin.

With Svetlana Stalin

Throughout his entire journalism career, which spanned better than 50 years, every agreement he had with Murdoch was done with no more than a handshake.

All of that, and so much more, were testaments to his exceptional work ethic and character.

He lived his life as a devout Catholic. A devotion he shared with his beautiful and loving wife Monica for the 59 years and 11 months they were married, until her death in 2012.

Together they had nine children and they lost two very young. Neither ever totally recovered completely from their losses. Their beautiful hearts would never allow it.

They both gave everything they had for all the days they had on this earth. Some harder than others. Some exhausting, some filled with an inestimable amount of joy.

They were tested. Often. Their faith was tested. Their relationship was tested. Their belief in themselves was tested.  Their devotion to family was tested. They were tested by their children, seven times over.

Their life together was one test after another. It was their faith in God and each other that led them to the beautiful life they lived together. They made it through every adversity because they had God and each other in their lives.

They were an unimaginable team of role models. Both revered, loved and adored by their children and their grandchildren, as they so deserved.

Then the time came for this story, this life, this magnificent presence on earth, to come to its conclusion. For him to find a peace deserving of such an extraordinary life. To now stand in front of his darling Monica once again and lose himself in those gorgeous blue eyes of hers.

… and to hear her say “Lovey, welcome home.”

Arrangements:

Viewing is Tuesday December 20, 2022 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. located at Blackley Funeral Home 809 Broad Ave, Ridgefield, NJ 07657 (201) 945-5032

Funeral Mass is Wednesday December 21, 2022 at 9:30 a.m. located at St. Matthews R.C. Church 55 Prospect Avenue, Ridgefield, NJ 07657

One thought on “The End of An Era

  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. I am Brenda’s cousin and had the honor of meeting both your parents once in Ridgefield.Never had I felt so welcomed any where. You all are blessed and my heart breaks for all of you. Damien if you’re reading this our love and sorrow are with you and your family.

    Like

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