Hearts Love 11

Tom Mac Kerns

October 31, 1934 ~ July 5, 2022 (age 87)


Mac Kerns passed away peacefully at his home outside of Haines, Oregon July 5, 2022, with his loving family at his side.

Tom McCornack (Mac) Kerns was born in Sheridan, Wyoming, on October 31, 1934, to Tom and Janet (McCornack) Kerns. In 1936 the little family moved to Eugene and then Lorane, Oregon. Soon, Mac’s father researched a desirable location (out of the Willamette Valley because of hay fever and allergies) for the family to settle and farm. The beautiful Baker Valley reminded Tom of the Sheridan area he’d grown up in, and it had a railway which he knew was very important for transporting crops and farm animals. In 1939 Mac and his family moved to a ranch in Haines. He and his older sister Jean attended grade school in Rock Creek, then Muddy Creek, riding horseback to and from. His freshman year of high school was in North Powder. Because his older sister Jean was attending high school in Baker, Mac’s folks determined it would be best if he attended there also. Lucky thing because it was there he met his future bride Joyce (Cole).

Joyce and Mac were married on June 21, 1953, and began 57 years of marriage and adventure. The newlyweds resided on the ranch in Haines until that fall when Mac resumed his studies at Oregon State University in Corvallis. In 1959 the ranch had a rough year, and Mac’s brother-in-law Tom suggested he seek employment with the U.S. Forest  Service. Mac signed on for what was going to be a temporary job, but the Forest Service offered him many ways to use and expand his knowledge, so he stayed with them until 1984. Mac completed his college career with a degree in Agricultural Engineering which he used thoroughly throughout the rest of his life. He obtained his professional license as a Civil Engineer in 1962. In 1978 he became a licensed land surveyor, and in 1991 he added Certified Water Rights Examiner to his resume’.

The family expanded with the birth of Lorance Brent in 1954, Wesley Allen in 1958, and Janet Irene in 1960. Mac’s career with the Forest Service took them to many postings throughout the Northwest Missouri and Washington DC. They often purchased a home that benefited from remodeling or later constructed their homes. Mac included the children in all aspects of the building projects, and they learned many valuable skills in the process. Each move was considered an adventure by Mac and Joyce, and he not only made a difference with his engineering skills in building roads and reservoirs but became active in community affairs and their church. Locally, while working in the Malheur Forest out of John Day, Oregon, Mac was the chief engineer in the project creating the Tipton Cutoff highway. He was awarded “Best Road Job In the Nation” for that project. He also served on the John Day city council while living there.

Upon retirement in 1984, Mac and Joyce moved back to Haines to the ranch with their family. There, Mac was active in several aspects of agriculture, primarily as a Water Rights Examiner, and even served as chairman of the Oregon Wheat Growers Commission. In that position, he was able to visit China on a marketing trip.

Mac remained active and positive throughout his life by participating in community activities. He rarely missed the 4th of July Haines Fun Run, and as a member of the Haines Methodist Church, he assisted with constructing that Community Hall. Mac was a proponent of water and stream enhancement and use, while also especially a champion in advocating for better forest management to prevent fires. The children of Haines Elementary School (many of which were great-grandchildren and great nieces and nephews he loved to point out) benefited from his volunteering in the classroom. He served on a board for the rural fire district as an activist for getting support through tax rolls for better fire protection. His interest in local history led him to involvement with the Baker County Historical Society and Eastern Oregon Museum at Haines, OR, where his memories of his early years have helped inspire people.

Mac had a way of linking the past to the present, learning from experiences not only of his own but also of others, to aptly apply them in solving problems. In his last days, he still displayed an interest in what each of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were working on, learning, or simply interested in.

In 2021 Mac, with the assistance of his youngest brother James, penned a “Christmas letter’ that eventually grew into a book entitled “Our Oregon Heritage.” These writings document and celebrate the lives of Thomas and Cornelia Condon (Mac’s great-great-grandparents) and Herbert McCornack’s family. (Herbert being Ellen Condon’s husband and Mac’s great-grandparents)

Mac was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Joyce Avon (Cole),  daughter  Diane, parents Tom and Janet, and sister Jean (Tom) Griffith.

Mac is survived by his children, Brent (Mary ), Wes (Mary Davies), and Janni (John) Eggers. Grandchildren  Jacque(Josh)Cobb,  Logan(Holly) Kerns,  John(Catie) Kerns, Jeff (Kim) Kerns, Mark (Savannah) Kerns, Zach (Savannah) Eggers, 1st Class Petty Officer Eli Eggers, and  Andy (Chelsey) Johnson. Great-grandchildren  Colt and Orin Cobb, Weston Kerns, Lance and Joy Kerns, Bridger and Briar Johnson. Brothers Tim(Jan) Kerns, James(Margery), sister Ellen(Philip)Stevenson, and brother-in-law Tom (Jean) Griffith, plus numerous nieces and nephews. Also, Mac’s special friend Mary Boyer.

Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, September 3, 2022, at the Haines United Methodist Church. A potluck meal and celebration will follow the service in the community center at the church. Memorial contributions in Mac’s memory may be sent to the Eastern Oregon Museum or the Haines United Methodist Church via Coles Tribute Center 1950 Place St. Baker City, OR 97814. 





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Memorial Service
September 3, 2022

10:00 AM
Haines United Methodist Church
721 Robert Street
Haines, OR 97833

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