Roy Bird Obituary (1943 – 2022) – Knoxville, TN

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Roy Kerby Bird, 78, a man of many extraordinary interests and talents, died of complications from cancer and heart disease on April 14, 2022 at the Beverly Park Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville.
He was born in May, 1943 to Roy S. and Virginia Kerby Bird in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His father’s work as an engineer for Southern Bell Telephone Company took the family to Nashville, Clarksville, Donelson, and, finally, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
From a young age he was interested in how things worked. His mother told the story of how three year old Roy, or Kerby as he was known to avoid confusion with his father, disassembled an alarm clock. When chastised by his mother for doing so, he reassembled it and it worked perfectly.
This desire to understand how things worked continued through his youth. His parents told the story of the first car that Kerby bought, a 1939 Ford that was in such a state of disrepair that its engine was mostly disassembled and in peach baskets in the back seat. Though his mother was displeased to have this wreck in the driveway, Kerby was unconcerned and proceeded to clean, repair, and replace parts until the car, named “Dora” by its industrious owner, was a fully running vehicle again. Kerby drove it up through college.
As one might expect for someone who had spent his youth trying to understand how things worked, Kerby pursued a degree in mechanical engineering at both his hometown Middle Tennessee State and at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville before finishing his degree at the University of Chattanooga in August of 1968.
After finishing his degree, Kerby worked for several companies as a mechanical engineer. He said half-jokingly to his son “I’d stay about three years, until I knew the job I had well, then I’d go look for a new job and a new challenge.” Over the years he worked for companies that made items and companies that sold expertise through subcontracting. He worked on a variety of projects as a subcontractor, at one point shinnying along a thick pipe eighty feet over a concrete slab in a nuclear power plant that was under construction, making sure the pipe sections were fitted exactly as specified. He freely admitted leaving his safety harness on the ground as “It only gets in my way.” An admission that did not please his first wife, the former Ann Thomas, and the mother of his two children.
From that job he moved on to his last engineering job, as a staff engineer for International Business Machines at a plant in Charlotte, NC. He had a lot of variety with this job and his own office with a door instead of a desk in a cube farm. Both of these factors may have combined to make him want to stay with this job for the long term, which he intended to do. And as usual when one gets comfortable, something happened.
After ten years at IBM the news came that the plant was going to be closed and employees encouraged to retire, transfer, or accept layoffs. Kerby, though only in his late forties, took the generous early retirement package and left the engineering world behind, though the variety of knowledge and skills he had gained through his many jobs, and his many hobbies, stood him in good stead for the future .
With his experience in construction, gained through years of home repairs and projects both at his home and for friends, he took a job at one of the home improvement superstores before moving on to another career field and going to work for the US Postal Service. He worked for the USPS until reaching the age when one usually retires, his sixties. He and his second wife, Terry Jean Taylor, who had already retired, relaxed at their home and acreage in rural South Carolina where they could explore one of their hobbies, astronomy, without the background glare of city lights. They also delighted in going to the local small airfield to watch and speak with the sky divers and they would go to the lakes and parks around their area. They also ranged further afield, traveling widely by car or van and visiting friends and family along the way. But Kerby liked working, so he developed his knowledge and skills to do the delicate work required to repair pocket watches, clocks, and he even maintained the clock in the town hall steeple in a nearby county.
While much of Kerby’s business life revolved around engineering, his leisure activities were many and diverse. His love for the great outdoors was shown in the many hikes he took both with his family and / or friends and in his almost six years as a very active Scoutmaster for his son’s Boy Scout Troop. His son remembers how the younger version of himself would complain about having to carry a heavy backpack for miles down a trail to a campsite, though the other boys seemed to enjoy the hike.
He was also interested in arts and crafts. While married to his first wife and living in Charlotte with their young children they pursued a variety of arts and crafts as hobbies, drawing the children into the joy of it all too. Kerby particularly enjoyed woodworking and painting. His children each have a favorite or two of the paintings that their dad did. His son laughs at the fact that his father, who was meticulously accurate making sure that every minute detail was carefully included in his work, was just as happy using broad brush strokes to give the impression of buildings in the middle distance of his landscapes instead of making sure to detail every brick, stone, door, or window. In addition to these new hobbies he continued his boyhood work on repairing and restoring older cars, mainly older Alfa Romeos from the fifties and early sixties.
Kerby’s mind was always in search of knowledge and the enjoyment of literature. His book collection is immense and diverse, from fiction read for pleasure, including the self-published written works of both his children, to a variety of scientific tomes and historical collections. He could speak knowledgeably on a variety of disparate subjects, and was always happy to learn more if others knew more than he did about a topic that interested him.
Kerby was a raconteur, much like his father, and delighted in storytelling and sharing with others. He was a musician, playing both trombone and guitar. He was willing to try new things and would laugh about the ballroom dancing that he and his second wife would do. “I just stand still and change my posture. I’m just the pivot. She does all the dancing around me.” Whatever adventures came at him in life, he’d meet them head on and try to enjoy the ride.
Kerby was predeceased by his second wife, Terry Jean, in December of 2020 after a battle with cancer. They met while Kerby was living in Charlotte, NC in the mid eighties and married in 1987. They shared mutual interests in learning and knowledge, gaining new information from each other and then learning about interests together, be it history, philosophy, astronomy, music , or anything else that caught their interest. She had been a dancer and a dance instructor in her life, experienced in ballet and tap as well as ballroom dancing. She imparted her enjoyment of dance to him and he was a willing student.
Also predeceased by his parents, he is survived by his son Patrick Bird, his daughter Kerwin Bird Frix, his son-in-law Scott Frix, his granddaughter Sloan Frix, all of Knoxville, and his brother Terry Cornelius Bird and Terry’s partner Clark Lemons , of Decatur, Georgia, as well as many cousins ​​and friends.

Published by Legacy on May 6, 2022.

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