All of Meadville man's generosity is in vein

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MEADVILLE, Pa. -- Between old uniforms from his time in the Air Force and pay stubs from his days working at Penelec, Meadville's Joseph Kerr saves just about everything -- including lives.

At 70 years old, Mr. Kerr is perhaps one of the American Red Cross' most prolific blood donors after recently giving his 200th pint.

He knows most of the local Red Cross staff by name, as he's spent about 33 years donating on a regular basis.

"He shows up wherever he can every 56 days," said Kathie Roae, local Red Cross blood drive coordinator. "We're always glad to see him. He always has a big smile on his face, and he's saved a lot of people."

Depending on individual needs, blood transfusions can require whole pints or utilize three separate products derived from a pint: platelets, plasma and red cells.

Blood collected by the Red Cross at various locations around Crawford and surrounding counties are distributed nationally, according to Ms. Roae.

With 200 pints in the bag, Mr. Kerr has potentially saved up to 600 people with his dedication to donation.

"Unless you're a doctor, you probably can't say you've helped save that many people," Ms. Roae said. "A lot of people out there are glad he's such a loyal donor."

Most of Mr. Kerr's humanitarian inspiration comes from his own experience in 1967, when he needed roughly a third of his blood replaced during a lifesaving procedure that followed a tragic incident.

"I was rebuilding power lines [with Penelec] on Route 8 before Interstate 80 was even open," he said. "A fellow and I were getting materials out of our truck when another truck hit us."

The impact of a frozen food truck killed Mr. Kerr's co-worker and left Mr. Kerr with a broken back and right hip. Doctors told him he would recover but probably never climb poles for a job again.

Three years later, Mr. Kerr made a full physical and psychological recovery and resumed his career repairing damaged power lines.

A few years later, when a co-worker mentioned a blood drive, Mr. Kerr felt he needed to return the favor and began giving consistently with a goal of donating 100 pints.

"That was his goal at first," said Mr. Kerr's wife, Linda. "Then his 'ultimate' goal was to try for 200. Now, he plans to go as long as he can."

At a steady rate of one pint six times a year, he reached both goals and, of course, saved his donor cards and various Red Cross recognitions along the way.

"He's very faithful to it; he enjoys it," Ms. Kerr said.

Well into 12 years of retirement from Penelec, Mr. Kerr is active, tending to his grapes, caring for his dog and keeping up on yardwork.

"I'm in pretty good shape for 70," he said.

"He hardly sits down," Ms. Kerr said. "He's always helping somebody do something."

Helping people seems to run in his veins, after all. Had he wanted to start giving blood at his current age, he believes the Red Cross might not have accepted. Given his track record, however, Mr. Kerr expects to donate as long as he is healthy and able.

The Red Cross is seeing greater numbers of longtime donors, according to Ms. Roae, who mentioned one donor giving his 150th pint when Mr. Kerr gave his 200th.

"Now that they've been donating for so long, we're starting to see huge amounts from a lot of loyal donors," she said. "We're very glad to have so many loyal donors."

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