Jerrold Gaston “Jerry” Kane was the first-born of five children to Helen (Goodenough) and Arthur Jerrold “Jerry” Kane. Jerry was born in Manhattan and spent the first five years of his life in Queens. Jerry grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida with his mother, siblings, his Aunt Katherine “Kitty” Kane Gibbons and his favorite set of cousins. Growing up during the war, Jerry and his best friend and little brother Daniel “Danny” Kane worked many different jobs best suited for grown men and had little time for school during what Jerry fondly recalled as their misspent youth. This would serve young Jerry well as he left home for Arizona at age 14 with $5, a loaf of bread and a bologna. He would not return home. When questioned, Jerry was known to say “I have been without adult supervision of any kind since I was fourteen.”
In Phoenix, Jerry had a job as a soda jerk, worked the fields alongside migrant workers during planting and harvesting season, bought a car (he had an “incorrect’ driver’s license with an age of sixteen despite being fourteen and never having taken a driver’s test), rented an apartment, and occasionally attended eleventh grade. After that, Jerry drifted for a few years in the southwest with prolonged stops in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Jerry was known to have said “depending on what you think of the people in Las Vegas, I really was raised by wolves.”
After drifting and somewhat tiring of the wild life, Jerry sought to put down roots where his favorite aunt, Kitty, had moved with his cousins who he considered a second set of siblings. He moved to Philadelphia, where his roots became permanent. There, he worked at the Veteran’s Administration where he met Katherine Gregory who agreed to marry him because he resembled her favorite, Frank Sinatra. His drifting stopped and they were married for 59 years. Aunt Kitty thought Katherine civilized Jerry.
He worked at the VA while waiting for his number to be called at the police academy. His career in homicide happened almost by accident. A policeman had been murdered on Jerry’s beat, the regular homicide investigator was sick, and the young beat cop solved the murder within hours leading to his first promotion. Jerry was the youngest detective ever in the Philadelphia Police Department and once out of uniform was rarely seen without his fedora and rumpled raincoat. He spent most of his 44 years in the police department in the Homicide Division where he was known to bring his favorite “child” Buck E. Kane on occasion. Jerry had a whole second life in homicide, intermittently interrupted by his other true loves: bowling and poker. Jerry did not do things halfway, playing poker both with friends and in professional poker rooms across the country (I guess some Vegas stuck to the man who was known by fellow pros as “The Inspector”) and bowling 300 several times, once in Police League competition. He also became the Commanding Officer of the Homicide Division. When not indulging in his passions of murder and gambling, Jerry enjoyed watching the Phillies (he preferred the Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn variety) and Eagles (Jerry attended their 1960 Championship game) with his family. When Jerry completed forty years in the department, the department commemorated this anniversary by creating The Kane Award which is still given annually to “the archetype of the perfect homicide investigator – smart, fair, and relentless.” One of his many awards and plaques (this one from the Homicide Division) concludes with the sentence “There truly are eight million stories in the naked city, and only Jerry Kane knows them all.” After retirement, Jerry continued his life’s work as a member of the Vidocq Society, comprised of retired law enforcement officers from multiple agencies who look into both unsolved murders and wrongful convictions. Jerry was not simply a member, he was the recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award.
Jerry was a quiet, loving husband, father, and uncle despite being surrounded by violence and murder in the other half of his life. He never brought it home or told his family work stories. The tough Inspector even liked gardening although he might not have admitted it. Jerry returned in his latter years with Katherine to the Daytona Beach area he loved so much as a child. Jerry is survived by his sister Sister Kathleen Kane, brother Douglas Kane, and his children Kathleen Patricia, Karen Lee, and Michael Arthur Christopher.
After Jerry completed his fortieth year, he could have retired at full pay. He worked for another four and a half years. One of his children questioned him about the wisdom of working so long for free. His answers sum up Jerry Kane: ”You’re wrong. If I had retired I’d get 100% pay. Since I was working I got to pay a city wage tax, a state income tax, and a few other fees. It cost me about 10% of my salary to work.” His child’s response was “I thought you were supposed to be smart.” He smiled and after a pause turned deadly serious and said “You’re wrong. I had the privilege of chasing and catching murderers and maybe preventing their next murder for only 10% of my salary. It was a bargain. It was a gift. The only thing I regret is retiring.”
He is the beloved husband of the late Katherine. Loving father of Kathleen, Karen, Michael.
Friends and family are welcome to attend his viewing from 10am to noon on Wednesday, 10-30-19, at St. John Chrysostom Church 237 N.17th St. Philadelphia. Funeral will take place at noon. Interment will be private.
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