On Friday, December 7, 2018 John F. Kerkhoff passed away at his home in Somis following a neurological illness of long standing, Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. John was 81 years of age and had just celebrated his birthday. His wife, Barbara, was by his side when he peacefully passed. He was born in Quincy, Illinois on November 27, 1937, the son of Lois and Cornelius Kerkhoff.
John served In the U.S. Navy aboard the submarine tender, The Sperry. Upon completion of his military service he attended the Pasadena College of Design and U.C.L.A. achieving a Mechnical Engineering degree.While attending U.C.L.A. he was part of the Crash Collision Project. During that time he met Derwyn Severy who was in charge of the Project and ultimately joined Derwyn in his transportation accident analysis business in El Segundo, California. In 1980 he met Barbara who lived in Somis, and upon marrying John decided to move to Somis and start his own accident analysis business. John collected cars and his favorite ones were those that became "orphans" - the Chevrolet Corvair, the Chevrolet Citation, the Pontiac Fiero. John always used to joke that he fell in love with Barbara when he saw all those potential parking spaces. John and Barbara met through the introduction service "Friend Finders"; they were both looking for a companion with whom to hike and the owner of Friend Finders introduced them to each other because they were the only ones who listed hiking as a main interest and she was tired of the many phone calls inquiring as to whether and when they were going to be introduced to a potential "friend".
John started the business JFK Engineering and Barbara left her paralegal career to help John with his new business; her role was that of bookkeeper and case manager. John's analytical mind, keen eye and knowledge of cars and their operation, coupled with his drawing ability in preparing court exhibits in form for a jury to understand, resulted in his success as a transportation accident analyzer and engineer. John actually designed and developed some of the first exhibits presented in court testimony in the days before reliance upon computers and many of the methods and techniques used in these presentations today were because of his personal skill, engineering know-how, common sense and drawing ability. He knew what was important to stress so that lay people on a jury could better understand the dynamics of a traffic accident scenario. His step-son and professional colleague Michael Varat joined him in the business and it became Keva Engineering with its head office in Camarillo, although both Barbara and John continued to work out of their Somis home.
John was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers based in Detroit and served upon a number of their accident reconstruction committees at locations throughout the United States. This activity included research, testing and preparation of technical papers. John had to retire from the business in 2011 due to having contacted San Joaquin Valley Fever on a vehicle inspection in Bakersfield which several years later turned out to be a precursor to Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, a debilitating neurological disease with which not too many doctors were familiar and which closely resembled Parkinson's in some of its behaviors. John had surgeries at U.C.L.A to receive several brain shunts designed to affect the flow of spinal fluid. These surgeries did not have the desired effect and although his cognition returned enabling him to communicate, other weaknesses brought about by the disease which affected his gait and incontinency did not significantly change and which over the last six years resulted in a continuing weakening of his total condition.
Despite this John was able to watch his grandson graduate (Valedictorian) from Westlake High in 2018, attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Somis intersection on which John had worked long and hard for approximately twenty years and was able to enjoy the horse show from Canada "Cavalia" when it came to Camarillo.
Barbara and John were part of the group of Las Posas Valley residents who founded the community activist organization "Save our Somis" . John was the moving force in terms of his ability to review and comment upon the various environmental documents produced by Caltrans who for many years tried to push for a very much enlarged intersection at the junction of Somis. Somis was very fortunate in having a number of professional residents of the Las Posas who had varying abilities from the agriculture, legal and engineering fields and all of these talents came together, raised enough money in order to hire a top environmental law firm and traffic engineer, participated in many discussions with County staff as well as Caltrans over the years both in Los Angeles and Ventura, and which ultimately resulted in a court judgment in favor of the community. It was also fortuitous that after many years Caltrans committed its funds to other projects and so were then inclined, in concert with the Ventura County Public Works ,to redesign their Somis project to a smaller more appropriate size for Somis and in keeping with the wishes of the majority of the Somis residents.
During John's "free" time during the last thirty years he raced his Pontiac Fiero under the auspices of the SCCA. This car was among a number built by Pontiac for the purpose of competing in SCCA events throughout the country and John was gratified to either win or place in some of these events. He was familiar with the race tracks of Riverside, Willow Springs, Button Willow, Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio. In addition to actually racing at these locations John with Barbara also liked to attend as spectators the Vintage car races held at Laguna Seca every August .
After John and Barbara met and discovered their mutual love of hiking, starting in 1981 they would head into the Eastern Sierras every summer joining the Red Meadow Pack Station in Mammoth on their 5 to 7 day trips into the wilderness. They were accompanied in these endeavors by their sons, Michael and Shawn. They were fortunate to see the country, mountains and animals of the Eastern Sierras, crossing the various 11,000 ft. passes (Donahue and McGee) into Yosemite. The pack station carried their gear on their trusty mules and what was even better, the drovers did all the cooking. John loved to take photos of these trips and produced some wonderful memories which are contained in photo books .
John was a member of the Ventura County Corvairs, CORSA West and the Citroen Club. He and Barbara would host Christmas parties for the local club. John and Michael would compose a Corvair Quiz which no-one wanted to play because it was Christmas and who wanted to have to pass a test at Christmas for goodness sake. They would also plan out a Corvair rally in the summer, driving the highways and byways of Ventura County, usually winding up at the Kerkhoff's for the famous Somis burritos. Fun times.
Today should not pass without John's deep love for dogs being noted. He loved Beagles and Border Collies and all things dog. He participated in some very difficult rescues one time sitting out in a truck all night in a field in Oxnard with a cage to try to capture a White German Shepherd, Sara, who belonged to a disabled vet who had been visiting his parents and who had gone missing while her owner was absent from the motel room where he had left her. That's another story which has been written about elsewhere and at other times but it reflects an indication of the deep caring that John Kerkhoff felt for all creatures and deserves mention.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara; son Shawn; grandchildren Jacob Varat and Ashley Varat; ex-daughter in law Robyn Varat; and first wife Judy Kerkhoff. He was preceded in death by his brothers and sisters, Bonnie, Dotsie, Mike and James; and by his stepson Michael Varat.
Appreciation and grateful thanks to Home Instead for their care of John over the last five years, particularly to caregivers Antonio Cuyugan, Rick Papuzza and Neva Ziegler. These dear people became as family and friends. What would we have done without them we can't even imagine. A memorial celebration for John will be held within the next couple of months. In the meantime, pursuant to his wishes, he will be cremated and his ashes scattered.
To send flowers to John's family, please visit our floral section.