Obituary: Leanne Bauman Kerchner
Teacher, mother, friend
Leanne Bauman Kerchner died November 27, four days after suffering a massive stroke. Her children—Paige Kaplan and Charles A. Kerchner—and her husband, Chuck, were with her as she passed.
She was 79 and had lived in Claremont for four and a half decades. Just after the New Year in 1976, Leanne and her family moved to an old house on Baughman Avenue, where she lived until this year. The children grew up there, graduated from Claremont High, and have become caring, competent adults. Paige lives in Los Altos, California, with her husband, Mike, and their three children. Charles is a deputy sheriff for the State of Hawaii, stationed in Honolulu.
As her husband pursued a career on the education faculty at Claremont Graduate University, Ms. Kerchner became a stellar special education teacher. She earned both state credentials and a Ph.D., and taught in the Upland Unified School District for over 20 years. She mentored novice teachers, was designated as a master teacher, and became part of a group that provided professional development to other educators. Her final years at Upland USD were spent as a grant writer and manager of grant-funded programs, including the district’s outreach to homeless families and service learning.
She was particularly skilled at helping students find ways around learning disabilities. One day she noticed that one of her students, who struggled with reading, was also quite uncoordinated. They went out to the school yard, and Leanne taught the youngster to jump rope. That ability, somehow, unlocked the child’s mind, and she began to read.
Later, she was a pioneer in using computers to teach writing. Many of her students had small motor problems. Writing on the keyboard freed them to concentrate on words and sentences rather than struggling with their shaky handwriting. She started an “authors” club where learning disabled students shared their work.
Her doctoral thesis tested the rules used for writing assessment and found that students—like professional writers—benefited from having time to revise their work rather than being required to submit first drafts. When given the chance to polish their writing, students reported that they actually liked to write.
She was born on February 13, 1941, in Champaign, Illinois, to Robert and Dorothy Bauman. She grew up there, was the president of her high school student council and attended the University of Illinois.
Her father managed automobile dealerships and—although her own car was an aging Ford with bad springs—she occasionally had the use of head-turning vehicles. Among the family pictures is a newspaper clipping of John F. Kennedy riding in her convertible while campaigning in 1960.
She and Mr. Kerchner met at the university and were married there in 1962. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English education and, before moving to Claremont, taught school in Illinois and Florida.
Since the Kennedy years, she was a passionate Democrat, working for candidates and contributing to them. When her husband would complain that her ActBlue contributions had filled an entire page of a credit card bill, she would firmly tell him to shut up.
She was also a quiet feminist, encouraging girls and younger women to push forward. She was an early Kamala Harris supporter and took great pleasure at her election. She was also a member of the League of Women Voters for decades.
She was an amazing and dedicated mom, firm and gentle at the same time. Her children said that they could count on her calm demeanor, astute guidance, and understanding as she joined them in both their triumphs and struggles. As a friend said after her death, “she had a gift of listening and knew what to say in return.”
She was an active member of Claremont Presbyterian Church, served as an elder and at the time of her death as a deacon. Weeks before her death, she recorded an appeal for pledges to the church saying, “Our role as the church is to help all the people around us who are suffering. There’s a lot for everyone to do.”
She was an avid reader—mostly fiction—and kept a “best of the year” list that she shared with friends, in part as a way of starting interesting conversations. Her favorite church activities were organizing the library, ordering books for it, and coordinating the church’s annual book review fete.
She also loved music. In later life she became an avid subscriber to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and board member of the Foothill Philharmonic Committee.
But perhaps her favorite recreation was travel. From the beginning of their marriage, when she and her husband tramped around Europe in a bright red Volkswagen Bug to their last trip to Panama and Costa Rica just before the pandemic, traveling with friends and family brought great joy. She knew the London Underground like a native, pushed her arthritis pain to the side to climb the Acropolis, and punched out a marauding temple monkey in Bali as it tried to swipe her glasses.
She also loved the now 90-year-old house on Baughman Avenue and the neighborhood that surrounded it. She proclaimed it “the best block in Claremont.” The Christmas open house remains a longstanding tradition. She was a gracious hostess, and a constant remodeler. There was not a wall in the place that didn’t reflect her touch. Finally, though, she declared that the big house was too much, and she and Mr. Kerchner moved to Mt. San Antonio Gardens this spring.
She is survived by her husband Chuck (Charles Taylor Kerchner); her two children, Charles and Paige; daughter-in-law, Tracy Lum; half-brother, Jim Bauman; and three grandchildren, Zachary David Kaplan, Abigail Mara Kaplan and Jacob Charles Kaplan. Also, her brothers and sisters-in-law, John and Carolyn Gardner of Corvallis, Oregon, and Arthur and Rosi Kerchner of Kent, Washington. Her cousins include Gaynell Ventura of Canton, Michigan, Suella Kennedy of Petaluma, California, and John and William Grub of Urbana, Illinois.
Her parents and her brother, Charles Bauman, predeceased her.
An online memorial service will be held by Claremont Presbyterian Church on January 9 at 10 a.m. Links to the service will be posted by the church at https://www.claremontpres.org, and on Ms. Kerchner’s CaringBridge website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/leannekerchner.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers or other remembrance, if you wish, consider a donation in her name to: The Inland Valley Hope Partners at https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=ivhp&id=1, or by check to 1753 N. Park Ave., Pomona, CA 91768; or Presbyterian Disaster Relief at https://pma.pcusa.org/donate/make-a-gift/gift-info/DR000148/, or by check to Presbyterian Church USA, PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.
Or, for you Democrats, contribute heavily to the Georgia Senate runoff campaign. Leanne will smile upon you.