Robert A. Kehres, 90: Lawyer by trade, musician at heart

Robert Kehres had a mind for law but a heart for music.

As a young man, despondent with the legal system and criminal law, Kehres walked away from his career as an attorney. He worked in a number of industries, from automotive to prosthetics, but through it all one thing was constant: his trumpet.

“Music was his life,” said close friend Fern Strickland, of Johns Creek. “Even when he wasn’t feeling so good, he’d say, ‘I have to go play. I’ll feel better when I’m done.’ And he always did.”

Kehres, who once tried his hand at being a professional musician and currently had been playing with more than one big band-style ensemble, enjoyed being on the go.

“He stayed very active and wanted to do everything,” Bob Kehres said of his father.

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Last week was shaping up to be a busy one for Robert Kehres. He attended band practice that Monday and met up with a friend for a meal the next day. But on Feb. 19, he called one of his grandsons to say he didn’t quite feel like himself, his son said. Before his grandson could arrive, Robert Arthur Kehres collapsed and died in his home. He was 90.

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. on Thursday at Sandy Springs Chapel, which is also in charge of arrangements. His ashes will be interred at a later date in Chardon, Ohio, where his wife and two of their children are buried.

“He lived his life to the very last minute,” Strickland said, her voice quivering. “He just had the kindest heart in him. He was so interested in knowing and helping people.”

Born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Kehres joined the Navy after high school and served during World War II. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1948 and eventually moved back to Ohio and enrolled in Case Western Reserve’s law school.

In the meantime, Kehres married the former Vera Gammel and they became the parents of three children, including one son who died as an infant and a daughter who died in 2005. His wife died in 2002.

Kehres’ career as a lawyer lasted only a couple of years before he realized he just couldn’t do it anymore, Kehres’ son said.

“He knew some of the people he had to represent were guilty,” said Bob Kehres, of Suwanee. He soon gave up practicing law altogether.

The Kehres family moved to Atlanta in the early ‘70s where Robert Kehres eventually took a job working as an office manager for a company that made parts for prosthetics.

“It was less stressful for him,” Kehres’ son said. “I think he enjoyed himself.”

The career change also allowed Kehres to focus on the things that were important to him.

“I can’t tell you how many of my friends lived with us, back when I was in my 20s,” Bob Kehres said. “He wanted to help anyone in need.”

That was a trait Kehres’ eldest grandson, Jonathan A. Newby, most admires about his grandfather.

“He is who I want to be when I grow up,” said the 28-year-old military veteran. “He just knew how to treat people. Just like my uncle (Bob), when my friends came over to his house, they had to meet him. They had to speak to him. Not because they wanted to, but because he wanted them to. He wanted to meet anybody who came into his house. That’s just who he was.”

In addition to his son and grandson, Kehres is survived by four additional grandchildren.

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