Obituary of Jim Kearney
Jim Kearney died unexpectedly Wednesday, June 28th at the age of 57 due to a heart attack.
Born James William Kearney Jr. at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley, he attended Markham Elementary School in Hayward forK-1st grade. After his family moved to Castro Valley, he went to Independent Elementary School, followed by Canyon Middle School. He attended Moreau High School in Hayward, where he was a member of the cross-country track team. Jim graduated from UC Santa Barbara in1988 with a degree in English. After college he lived in the Bay Area for a few years before moving to the Santa Cruz area in 1991. He worked for West Marine for 29 years, where he earned an impressive number of plaques and awards in recognition of his dedication and success. Jim was born with a quick, sharp mind and a kind heart. He had an impressive ability to learn quickly and excel in any area of interest. His greatest joys involved being with friends & family out in nature or immersed in music. A life-long sailor, he raced in countless numbers of regattas throughout his life. He raced in his first boat, a nearly 8’ El Toro as a little kid on Lake Merrit, through the Lake Merrit Sailing Club, where he served as Junior Commodore. He moved on to Hobie Cats in his teen years, and eventually to racing his beloved Santa Cruz 27 that he & his brother purchased together in the mid-1990s. From racing, to family trips sailing in the Caribbean as well as the Napa River and overnight trips to Angel Island, Jim’s love for the ocean was only matched by his love of music. After a few lessons from a friend in college, Jim quickly took to the guitar as if he had been playing his whole life. He had a gifted ear for music. His all-time favorite musician was Stevie Ray Vaughn, though he could hear a song in any genre, and within a short time, it was as if he had been playing it forever. He eventually learned how to play harmonica and guitar while writing and playing music with his life-long friend from college, Jeff Schrandt, who had given him those initial lessons their freshman year. Jim was also a gifted craftsperson. Among his many other impressive projects, he and his friend Jeff built a backyard deck just in time for his September 1999 rehearsal wedding dinner to his wife, Lori. Jim also had a love for classic cars. Some of his favorite memories were the times he entered his 1966 Austin Healey in the annual July 4th ‘World’s Shortest Parade’ in Aptos, driving the parade route with his daughter, Meghan and her bff, Aly. Jim’s heart and soul were drawn to the sea and came alive with music. As the personalized artwork below, designed by another college friend, says: “When he played guitar he was on top of the world. He heard nothing but the sweet music.”
Grieving this loss is his wife, Lori; daughter, Meghan; his parents, Jim & Jackie Kearney of Castro Valley; brother, Jeff Kearney of Livermore; many nieces, nephews, in-laws, along with other extended family members and friends.
A celebration of his life is being planned for sometime in August. Those who would like to honor Jim are welcome to contribute to the environmental group of their choice in his memory.