Eight Bells: John B. (Jim) Kilroy, Sr.
Published on October 2nd, 2016
John B. (Jim) Kilroy, Sr., philanthropist, mentor, and pioneer in sailing and real estate, passed away at 94 years on September 29, 2016, after nearly a century of life guided by his mother’s philosophy, “There is a God-given purpose in your creation. You have a God-given obligation to fulfill this purpose. If successful, you carry others with you for the benefit of mankind.”
Born a Gold Rush baby in Ruby, Alaska, Jim grew up shaped by the Great Depression and driven by hard work. As a young man in Southern California, he turned his World War II experience at Douglas Aircraft into a commercial property empire. In his prime, he transferred engineering knowledge to what became his passion: designing the groundbreaking KIALOA maxi boats and sailing them around the world, breaking records along the way.
Jim started in real estate in 1947 with $100 in his pocket, along with his wife and two young children, and in 1952 established Kilroy Industries, which later became Kilroy Realty Corporation.
In addition to his business career, he was involved in a variety of civic and philanthropic activities. He was heavily involved in Republican Party politics. He also chaired the committee which attempted to bring the 1976 Olympic Games to Los Angeles. In the 1990s, he was called upon by the White House for advice during the credit crisis. Jim’s public service included serving as the president of the Board of Harbor Commissioners of Los Angeles. He also served on the Board of Trustees for several colleges including Harvey Mudd and Pepperdine.
In 2005, with his wife, Nelly, he created a non-profit foundation to support educational institutions and other non-profits, especially those helping young people and the forgotten elderly. Support such as St. Vincent Meals on Wheels, Loyola Marymount University scholarships for U.S. and South American students, and LifeSail, which uses sailing to help underprivileged youth gain confidence and real-world skills.
In 2011, Jim received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Real Estate Forum, and in 2014 was inducted into the US National Sailing Hall of Fame, receiving its first Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2012, Jim wrote KIALOA US-1: Dare to Win to encapsulate his philosophy on life, business and sailing. A favorite talking point was his “Tenth of a Knot Rule”, how a bit more concentration and a bit more efficiency could make a huge difference in racing and life in general. “One tenth of a knot of increased speed over 24 hours equals 2.4 miles, a possible gain on our competition,” he wrote. “Focus by the helmsman, trimmer and crew extends the desire for victory.”
He was proud that his KIALOA crew were not professional sailors, and he made sure they had plans to pursue bigger goals after sailing. He was often there to help them reach those goals.
His achievements with KIALOA III include the 1975, 1976, and 1977 Yachting World Ocean Racing Champion and winning the 1975 Sydney-Hobart Race with a record time that stood for 21 years. “To declare that Jim Kilroy has lived a full, challenging, interesting and accomplished life is to traffic in understatement,” wrote Herb McCormick, former Editor-in-Chief of Cruising World magazine and yachting correspondent for the New York Times.
Jim is survived by his wife, Nelly; his children Sue, Anne, John, Trice and Dana, his stepchildren Bea, Michele, Mike, Rick, and Cece, and all their families including 17 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren.
For more information about the book, as well as to view photos and share KIALOA memories: kialoa-us1.com.
Donations in Jim’s honor may be made to St. Vincent Meals on Wheels (stvincentmow.org) or a charity of your choice.
A Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Chapel at Loyola Marymount University on Saturday, October 8, at 10am.