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04/24/17 - NNHS Newsletter - Jesse Kersey

Jesse Ray Kersey
(16 Feb 1938 - 22 Apr 2017)

Newport News High School Class of 1958

Dear Friends and Schoolmates,

   We have lost another Typhoon legend.
  Jesse Kersey, Most Typical Boy in the Class of 1958, brother of the late Jean Kersey Martin ('65) (d. 04 Oct 2004), passed away at home in Williamsburg on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the age of 76.

From Wayne Agee ('58) of FL - 04/22/17, 3:54 PM:


  Bobby Turpin ('57 - of VA) has advised me that Jesse Kersey ('58) has passed away.

   Oh, NO! Wayne, I'm so sorry to hear this; thank you letting me know! You have my sympathies on the loss of your classmate.

From Joe Drewry ('58) of VA - 04/23/16, 11:20 AM - " Jesse Kersey died Saturday 4/22/2017":

The cancer that first struck Kersey in 2015 took his life Saturday morning. He was 76 and died at his Williamsburg home, family at his side he is survived by his wife, Kathy, and sons Bryan and Todd.
  Peninsula icon, former NBA referee Jess Kersey remembered for 'magnetic personality'


Jess Kersey's proudest officiating moment wasn't about him. It didn't involve Kareem, Jordan, Bird or LeBron. It wasn't derived from the staggering numbers he compiled refereeing professional basketball for three decades.

Indeed, the memory that made Kersey beam most came eight years after his final game.

It was the 2015 NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, where his oldest son, Bryan, refereed on college basketball's grandest stage. How important was that experience to Jess?

He postponed a chemotherapy treatment to make it happen.

The cancer that first struck Kersey weeks before the trip took his life Saturday morning. He was 76 and died at his Williamsburg home, family at his side he is survived by his wife, Kathy, and sons Bryan and Todd.

"Every aspect of my life, he influenced," Bryan said. "He was a great father and a great referee."

Though his dad, a welder by trade, volunteered as a baseball and softball umpire, Kersey had no ambition to officiate any sport. A 1958 Newport News High School graduate, he was an accomplished athlete as a student and adult, playing two decades at second base for the renowned Fox Hill fast-pitch softball team.

But as a youth director in Newport News, he refereed kids' basketball games in a pinch, catching the eye of Otis Almond, an established college official from the area. Soon Kersey was fast-tracking from high school to college to the American Basketball Association to the NBA.

Kersey's first pro assignment was a 1974 Carolina Cougars-New York Nets exhibition at Appalachian State University. His career numbers: 2,200 NBA games, 190 in the playoffs, 19 NBA Finals and five All-Star games.

"It's the greatest job in the world," Kersey told the Daily Press' Dave Fairbank when he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. "You only have to concentrate for two hours-and-a-half."

Few did it better.

"Jess Kersey's magnetic personality and engaging communication skills were part of the reason for his success as an NBA referee," said Bob Delaney, the league's vice president of referee operations and director of officials. "Rules knowledge and play-calling abilities are expected, yet those who get to the top of our profession understand how to interact with the will-to-win emotions and heat-of-the-moment reactions by player and coaches. Jess had great people skills that served the NBA well."

Delaney knows first-hand. As a rookie official in 1987, he was assigned to work a majority of his games with Kersey.

That was the final season of two-man crews the NBA added a third referee to each contest in 1988-89 and life on the road together bonded the pair indelibly.

So when Delaney learned recently that Kersey's health was failing, he and a co-worker took photos and videos around the NBA office, where pictures, several showing Kersey, adorn the walls. Delaney sent them to Bryan for sharing with his dad.

"I had the honor and privilege to be mentored by Jess not only about the game of basketball but also about all the nuances of our profession," Delaney said. "I'm eternally grateful to him."

"The NBA family mourns the passing of former longtime referee Jess Kersey," the league tweeted to its nearly 25 million followers Saturday afternoon. "Jess relished the job and was one of the best at his craft."

The iconic photo of Kersey on the job is of him separating two very large humans, Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, during a scuffle. Arms wrapped around Olajuwon, head imbedded in Olajuwon's ribs, Kersey still has his whistle in his mouth.

But Bryan said the only picture prominently displayed in his dad's office is of Larry Johnson making a late 3-pointer for the New York Knicks against the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference finals.

Kersey whistled Indiana's Antonio Davis for a questionable foul on the shot, and Johnson's subsequent free throw gave New York a 92-91 victory.

"I knew right away I had screwed that play up," Kersey told ESPN The Magazine a year later. "As a ref you don't need to see it on tape. You know it, you feel it. I took something away from a team that didn't deserve to have it taken away."

Of all the mementos, why display that painful one?

"The ones that stay with you are the ones that you missed," Delaney said. "It's a constant reminder that you're pursuing perfection. That's the official's mindset: pursue perfection, with the reality that there's no perfect game out there."

Kersey took Bryan to scores of games, and when he couldn't he always returned with a trinket. A basketball, pair of socks, T-shirt, even a bag of airline peanuts.

Bryan's career path was clear and he became a staple in the ACC and other major conferences. He worked in the college ranks for 30 years before transitioning to administration this past season as the ACC's supervisor of officials.

The disarming manner Bryan brought to the college game was reflection of Jess.

"He wanted me to be great," Bryan said. "He encouraged me to be great. He pushed me every day, critiquing games, telling me what I was doing right, a lot of times telling me what I was doing wrong. I just hope all these guys who work for me, I can pass something down to them from him."

Late in his NBA career, Kersey took an involuntary sabbatical. In April 1997, federal authorities charged him and six colleagues with filing false tax returns they didn't report as income, money they received from downgrading to coach from the first-class airline tickets provided by the NBA.

Kersey pleaded guilty, paid back taxes and a $20,000 fine, served three years' probation and was forced to resign.

Why mention this at such a solemn moment? Because Kersey's response speaks to his considerable character.

Rather than stew in bitterness, denial or shame, he shared his setback with church groups, troubled kids and respected business types. Such remorse and humility earned him reinstatement from an uncompromising boss: then-NBA commissioner David Stern.

Moreover, Stern wrote the following in recommending Kersey for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame: "While (his statistics) alone are impressive, the truest measures of Jess's success are the consistent excellence, integrity, and work ethic he displayed in one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports."

"The toughest (time) I ever spent," Kersey told me in 2001 of his NBA leave. "It's something you grow from or go into a cave and hide from. If you try to hide the truth, you do somebody an injustice."

As reflective as Kersey was then, he was at his best spinning yarns. And heaven knows he had plenty of material.

"Oh, my goodness, and some of them were actually true," joked Henry Morgan, a friend and former softball teammate. "He was very funny and entertaining. He was also a very caring person. He did a lot of little things for people."

The owner of the Peninsula Pilots baseball team, Morgan and Kersey shared a love of that sport, especially at the grassroots level. Kersey attended many Pilots games in the Coastal Plain League, a summer outlet for college players, and was a regular at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

But it was basketball that captured his heart, witness the NBA T-shirt he wore during his final days.

Grinding through seasons into his late 60s, Kersey understood his time on the court was short. But the end was sudden.

In an April 2007 game, Kersey was unable to avoid a collision with Los Angeles Clippers guard Corey Maggette in a transition sequence. Ensuing left-hip replacement sidelined him permanently.

"With me being 5-10 and 160 pounds, and Corey being 6-5 and 225 pounds, I did not win that battle," Kersey said five years later.

Block or charge?

Jess Kersey probably would have whistled himself for the foul.

Teel can be reached by phone at 757-247-4636 or by email at For more from Teel, read his blog at and follow him at
Copyright 2017, Daily Press


   Thank you so much for this article and the great images, Joe. My condolences are with you.  

 From Fred Mays ('60) of VA - 04/23/16, 7:47 PM - "Death of Jesse Ray Kersey":

Hi Carol:

In case you are unaware, Jess Kersey passed away on Saturday, April 22, 2017. He graduated in 1958 with my sister Mary Anne. He left quite a reputation as an NBA referee and, according to Daily Press, officiated 2,200 games. He lived in Williamsburg, VA. There has not been an obituary yet; however the reporting of his death is in the D. P. today, Sunday, pages 1 and 6 of the Sports Section. David Teel, Sports Editor, reports that he loved basketball and his family. He died of cancer. Look for the obituary later.

Keep up the good work, my friend.

Fred Mays, class of 1960

   Thanks so much, Fred. I wish I had known Jesse by more than name and reputation. He sounds like such a good friend.

From The Daily Press - 04/24/17:

        Jesse Ray Kersey
    WILLIAMSBURG - Jesse "Jess" Ray Kersey, 76, passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, Saturday, April 22, 2017.

A lifelong peninsula resident, he was the son of the late Aubrey O. "Copper" and Margaret Wilson Kersey.

A sister, Jean Martin, also preceded him in death.

Jess was an exceptional, top rated NBA Referee, officiating over 2000 games, 19 NBA finals games, and five All Star games. His career began in 1974 with the American Basketball Association.

A graduate of Newport News High School, Class of 1958, he went on to play Fast-Pitch Softball for twenty years for Fox Hill and the F & M Bankers and was All World Second Baseman in 1969. He volunteered for 16 years with the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.

Jesse Kersey
Jess was a member of Northside Christian Church.

Survivors include his wife, Kathleen "Kathy" M. Kersey; sons, Bryan Kersey and his wife, Cindy, of Carrollton, Todd Kersey and his wife, Cindy, of Charlottesville; step-sons, Kris Hall of Hampton and Keith Hall of Newport News; and seven grandchildren, Shayne Kersey and his wife, Jess, of Chesapeake, Krysten Kersey of Carrollton, Grant Kersey and Madison Kersey, both of Charlottesville, Anthony Hall and Sean Hall, both of Newport News, and Evelynn "Eevee" Hall of Hampton.

He is also survived by too many friends and family to mention, as well as his reliable service dog, Abbie.

The family will receive friends Tuesday, April 25, from 6-8 p.m. at Northside Christian Church, Yorktown.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday, at 1 p.m. at the church, with Larry Jones officiating.

Peninsula Funeral Home is assisting the family. Come, Enjoy The Moment With Jess. View and post condolences on our online guestbook at

Published in Daily Press on April 24, 2017.
View Guest Book


April 24, 2017

Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. Remembering you and your loved one today and always.

~ Unsigned

April 24, 2017  
Sorry to hear about your loss. I always enjoyed talking with him when he came to Sam's Club, shopping and enjoying his time there. Will miss seeing him there, Sharon

~ Unsigned

April 24, 2017
A great friend, enjoyed every moment we were together. Will be greatly missed by so many people that knew him.

~ Unsigned
April 24, 2017

Brian, so sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your family. I'm sure Jess and Dad are having a good time in heaven.

~ Mike Firth

April 24, 2017
Prayers to the Kersey family. Jess was a Great man and he will be missed. He treated everyone the same, meaning he treated you as if he had known you forever. Taught me a lot of things and I will cherish those moments forever.

~ Michael S Jordan, Williamsburg, Virginia

April 24, 2017
Prayers go out to Kathy and the boys. Rip, Jess; you will be missed!!!

~ Little League PETE Esquivel, Barstow, California

April 24, 2017
Brian, I am so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in our prayers. If you need anything, please don't hesitate to let me know.

~ Mary and John Grimsley

April 24, 2017
Jess will be truly missed; my thoughts and prayers go out to his family !!! Jess always had a way of putting a smile on anyone's face he came in contact with !! He was a super person and I will miss him dearly !!!

~ Larry Cardwell, Hayes, Virginia

April 24, 2017
Our thought and prayers are with your family. We are so sorry for the loss of your dad. What a great man! Now heaven has a great angel... Bob & Tammy, Robbie, Noah

~ Unsigned

April 24, 2017   
  I met Jess when he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. It was an honor and privilege to be a part of it. I have never met a more humble or appreciative individual in my life. I've thought of him often over the years. He will be missed.

- Betsy Riesbeck Edwards, Williamsburg, Virginia

April 24, 2017
I am sorry to learn of your dad's passing. His accomplishments are truly a legacy that he leaves for you, your family and our community.

God Bless.

- John Worley
April 24, 2017
My brother Bob and I played a lot of sandlot baseball with Jesse in the early 50's. I was fortunate to be in the percussion section of the Newport News High band with him. Jesse was quite a character. I took over the morning Daily Press paper route in the Shipyard Apts. when he gave it up.
My condolences to his family.

Dick Beasley
Gloucester, Va.

- Dick Beasley, Gloucester, Virginia
April 24, 2017
From Eevee- she misses you, pop pop.
We all do. You were her best friend, and I'm glad we got those mornings. Those mornings, I will cherish forever, in my heart. And when she grows up, I will remind her of her mornings (and afternoons and bedtimes) with her pop pop. I love you, Jess. You are already so missed!!!

- Unsigned

April 24, 2017   

  Our deepest sympathies are extended to Jesse's family, friends, and classmates at this difficult time.

   This information is also posted here:

  Y'all take good care of each other!  TYPHOONS FOREVER! We'll Always Have Buckroe!

                          Love to all, Carol





Carol Buckley Harty
7020 Lure Court
Fayetteville, NC 28311-9309

Lead On, O King Eternal

Words by Ernest W. Shurtleff, 1888 (4 Apr 1862 - 24 Aug 1917)
Music (Lancashire) by
Henry T. Smart, 1836 (26 Oct 1813 -6 July 1879)

Shurtleff wrote this hymn wrote this hymn for the graduation ceremony at Andover Theological Seminary, where he was a member of the class of 1888.

 Lead on, O King eternal,
The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home:
Through days of preparation
Thy grace has made us strong,
And now, O King eternal,
We lift our battle song.

Lead on, O King eternal,
Till sin's fierce war shall cease,
And Holiness shall whisper
The sweet amen of peace;
For not with swords loud clashing,
Nor roll of stirring drums,
But deeds of love and mercy,
The heav'nly kingdom comes.

Lead on, O King eternal,
We follow, not with fears;
For gladness breaks like morning
Where'er thy face appears;
Thy cross is lifted o'er us;
We journey in its light:
The crown awaits the conquest;
Lead on, O God of might.

"Lead On, O King Eternal" midi and lyrics courtesy of - 12/07/07

Greg Olsen Paintings courtesy of 03/15/05

2007 Image of Jesse Courtesy of Wikipedia - 04/22/17

Blackwork Flowers Divider Line clip art courtesy of - 08/12/04

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