When we held our 50th class reunion in June 2014, Dave Derr was living an active, golf-oriented retired life in Bainbridge, NY, a beautiful town of 5000 overlooking the Susquehanna River, near the Pennsylvania border. Later that year, however, Dave was diagnosed with lung cancer. For a time, it appeared he had successfully beaten the disease into remission via a painful, months-long course of chemo and radiation. But the cancer suddenly returned in December 2015, and Dave died on Feb. 6, 2016.
David King Derr grew up in Los Alamos, NM. He chose Carleton in part because it was far from home, and he wanted to foster independence. Derr was an extremely talented and successful athlete, a three-year wide receiver on the football team, and starting centerfielder in baseball. During his senior year, he batted .301 and was named to the all-conference first team, an integral part of Carleton’s best baseball team in history. Dave, nicknamed “Preacher” because he planned to attend divinity school after Carleton, was quiet and self-effacing, always eschewing personal publicity.
Following graduation, Dave married Ann Kennedy ’64 and abruptly changed career plans. instead of Yale graduate school, the couple moved to New York City to await birth of their first son, with Dave taking a position at Shell Chemical Co. Six years later, Shell moved its corporate headquarters to Houston and the Derrs moved to upstate New York to pursue Dave’s longstanding interest in agriculture. After a few years with a cattle operation in the Catskills, Dave took a sales job with a new Blue Seal Feed mill in Bainbridge, NY. They eventually purchased 120 hilltop acres near town that Dave referred to as “our little piece of Eden.”
Ann and Dave divorced in 1983, and Dave was remarried two years later. He enjoyed a successful 35-year career with Blue Seal, becoming regional supervisor and later overseeing operations and sales in New York, New England and parts of Canada. Before and after his retirement in 2005, Dave was a popular and active civic leader in Bainbridge, a member of the local Development Corporation, an officer of the Community Foundation, and a five-year president of the Bainbridge chamber of commerce. He was also active for 38 years in the Rotary service club and was scheduled to be Regional Governor for Rotary International in 2018.
Dave never used tobacco. Before his death, he speculated to family members that his lung cancer may have been facilitated by prolonged exposure to feed dust in the local feed mills where he frequently visited and worked. When it appeared the 1964 baseball team would be inducted into the Carleton sports hall of fame at our 50th reunion, Dave made plans to attend, but when the C Club rejected the team’s nomination, he didn’t make the trip to Northfield. Dave was an individual who never sought personal recognition even though he richly deserved it, and I regret that he was never honored with his teammates by the Carleton sports hall of fame.