WILLIAM WALLACE (WALLY) KERRIGAN, III died of complications of a stroke in Santa Maria's Marian Regional Medical Center on May 12, 2020, just before dawn.
He was born in Hollywood, California in 1943, the eldest child of William Wallace Kerrigan, Jr. and Barbara Dawn Kerrigan. Wally graduated from Stanford University with Honors and a concentration in creative writing, studying under Yvor Winters. At Columbia University, he worked with Edward Tayler and earned both an M.A. and Ph.D. in English.
Wally taught at the state universities of Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts, as well as Middlebury College and Johns Hopkins University. He was the author and/or editor of eighteen books and multiple articles of literary scholarship and criticism, with a primary focus on Milton and Shakespeare (though he published on Larkin, Hardy, and Housman as well). He was also the general editor of the Modern Library edition of Milton's poetry and selected prose. The Milton Society of America honored him with its presidency as well as multiple awards, including one for lifetime achievement.
In 2004, Wally and wife Amelia Kerrigan, a dedicated psychiatrist, both retired and moved to Santa Maria, California. After retirement, Wally wrote two mystery series: the supernatural thrillers Tales of the Ghost Killers as well as The Kerriganeagrove novels, which star his grandfather William Wallace Kerrigan (agent of Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino, and intimate of Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin) and his grand-uncle J. Warren Kerrigan (silent movie idol).
Wally's threefold career—teacher, scholar, author—touched many lives: students, colleagues, readers. His large heart and good will inspired close friendships. His interests were wide-ranging. He was an avid reader of detective whodunit stories and a lover of all things cinema, from family film history to 40s and 50s musicals to John Ford westerns. Wally was also a living encyclopedia of a wide variety of music, particularly Doris Day, Jane Russell, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Dylan. In his youth, he was a proficient athlete, excelling in tennis, bowling, surfing; he also played golf into his 70s. Wally defined himself as a hedonist, but one whose pleasures were intellectual, political, cultural, and culinary. As a young man he worked for civil rights in the South; felt comfortable in the worlds of pop culture and Shakespeare; read Seneca for toughness and honor, and shared those ideals with his children; loved fine dining and Heaven's Door bourbon. He also inspired some of the great minds of this century: John Updike referenced Wally's influence in his novel Gertrude and Claudius, perhaps the ultimate honor in Wally's mind.
Wally's wife Amelia passed in 2017, after a wonderful 44-year marriage. Wally is survived by Christopher Kerrigan (son of Wally's first wife, Barbara Damrosch), Chris's wife, Rea Kerrigan, and their children, Patrick Kerrigan and Ella Kerrigan; Amelia Kerrigan's children, Brian Kerrigan and Ann Kerrigan; his brother, Timothy Kerrigan, and Tim's wife, Mary Jo Kerrigan; and Wally's partner, Marina Favila. With joy, Wally looked forward to welcoming Ann Kerrigan's firstborn, due this December.
A memorial service to celebrate Wally's life will be postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
To leave a condolence for the family visit www.dudleyhoffmanmortuary.com
Mortuary & Crematory
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