Posted November 8, 2007

John M. Kernochan
John M. Kernochan

John Marshall Kernochan, the law professor, composer and music publisher who founded Columbia Law School's Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts and whose pioneering work in intellectual property law helped spur stronger protections for artists, died Oct. 29, at his home in Jamaica Plain. He was 88.

He died from complications suffered from a recent fall.

He and his wife lived for almost 60 years in Greenwich and then Riverside, Conn., and he was a board member of the Greenwich Philharmonia Orchestra. He and his wife Adelaide moved to an assisted-living community in Boston, to be closer to Martha's Vineyard where they spent the best part of each year.

As the Nash Professor Emeritus of Law at Columbia University, he focused initially on the law of legislation, training students how to write and interpret statutes. He directed Columbia's Legislative Drafting Research Fund from 1952 to 1969, organizing projects and studies in witness immunity, financial protection against nuclear hazards, arms control and health and air pollution regulation.

Kernochan was also a member of President Kennedy's Commission on the Status of Women, which helped lead to women's rights legislation in the late 1960s.

Kernochan was born August 3, 1919, the only child of composer Marshall Kernochan and Caroline Rigney Hatch, a World War I nurse.

As editor of his high school yearbook at St. Mark's School in Massachusetts, he produced memorable verses on that year's graduates, which kicked off a lifelong pastime of writing doggerel verse and bawdy limericks. He also composed religious music. Four Christmas songs he wrote at 15 are still in print, though soon after adolescence he became a confirmed agnostic, sometimes claiming to be Druid.

After a year at Princeton, he dropped out to devote himself to composing. He studied under Howard Brockway, and spent a year visiting Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Kernochan composed several choral and orchestral compositions, which were later recorded. He transferred to Harvard University, graduated in 1942, and married Adelaide Chatfield-Taylor, who died in January of 2007.

When the United States entered World War II, he enlisted. With the 76th Division in Northern Europe, Kernochan worked behind the lines to help direct attacks during the winter of 1944 and the spring of 1945. After the war, he took advantage of the GI Bill to attend Columbia Law School. He graduated in 1948, and Columbia Professor Harry Jones persuaded him to join the law school faculty, where he served into his 70s.

When his father died in 1955, Kernochan took over his father's music publishing company, Galaxy Music Corporation. He inspired a revival of English and Italian madrigals by publishing a series edited by the late Thurston Dart. He helped fund and produce some of the outstanding American operas of the 20th century, including Robert Ward's Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Crucible" and Douglas Moore's "Carrie Nation."

An inveterate Francophile, Kernochan spent his sabbatical years in France, where he studied flute and off-color French argot. At home, at Columbia Law School and abroad, he routinely drafted people for impromptu madrigal singing sessions. A collection of his bawdy limericks and other verses, "Gardeyloo," was published on the web.

Kernochan is survived by his five children, John, of Cambridge, Denny, of Santa Monica, Calif., Sarah, of New York City, Wayne, of Wellesley, and Rose, of New York City, as well as nine grandchildren.

Columbia Law School is planning a memorial service for Professor Kernochan. Details are not yet available. The family said that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia Law School, 435 West 116 Street, Box A-2, New York, NY, 10027, Attn: Kristin Lynch.

Helen Chamberlin

Helen (Beagan) Chamberlin died Oct. 31 on Martha's Vineyard. She was 81. Helen was born in Waltham on Sept. 22, 1926, the daughter of Joseph and Helen (O'Neil) Beagan. She was raised in Waltham. She resided in Duxbury several years. She loved art and sewing, as well as gardening. She was the wife of Myron Chamberlin. She is survived by two daughters; Patricia Cunio of Kingston and Helen Walsh of Martha's Vineyard; two sisters, Joanne Walsh of West Bridgewater and Roseanne Giamo of Weston; her grandchildren, Ryan and Garth Cavicchi, both of Kingston, and Tim and Kevin Walsh, both of Martha's Vineyard; and two great grandchildren. Her funeral was held on Nov. 5 at Holy Family Chapel, Duxbury. Interment was in Centre Cemetery, Hanover. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, Inc., P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.