In a ceremony that has recently become tradition at the first Kamiah High School football game of the season, two more fine gentlemen were inducted into the KHS Hall of Fame. While Jerry Currin was informed of the honor in advance as is usual, the second inductee, Fred Mercer, was completely surprised. Both enjoyed a nice presentation given during halftime.
A lifelong Idahoan, Currin moved his family of six to Kamiah in 1971 and became the new school superintendent. He held that position for eight years, completely transforming school facilities to include securing funding, purchasing land, removing old structures, adding new construction, and delivering Kamiah’s first hot lunch program.
The transformation began with securing the hot lunch program, which required space to feed the students. Currin created a plan to remove the old 1905 high school and replace it with a multipurpose building through bond levy funds. Those funds, expertly managed by Currin and team members Phyllis Bovey (district clerk) and Vern Eller (school board chairman), resulted in the expansion of the high school gym, new locker rooms, new wrestling room and concession area, new football and track facilities, more classroom space, a new industrial arts/shop building, and the new multipurpose room which provided space for plays, band recitals, and other community and school events as it does so today.
Expanding the athletic facilities and creating the other projects required coordination and negotiation, particularly with the Nez Perce Tribe who owned the land Currin identified for the new football and track facilities. After long hours jointly working out the details, the effort was successful, and provided the athletic facilities that Kamiah students continue to enjoy today.
“Jerry was a prominent member of the community during his tenure as the KHS Superintendent,” said Currin’s daughter Robin. “As part of the Kamiah Lions Club, he spearheaded what continues to be a prominent gathering space during Barbecue Days when the Beer Garden was implemented.”
“That Beer Garden seems about as popular as it was from the start, although they changed the theme of it a little bit,” said Currin. “It started out with draft beer and we really had quite a time with keeping the kegs up. I think this time they went with the cans and that’s probably easier to manage. We were there a couple of times and it was nearly packed both times. It’s kind of a good social center, it was not to promote the beer theme but to promote a social theme where people could come and sit down and not have to do anything but visit with friends. I’m happy that it’s continued on.”
Jerry and his wife Janet have been married for 57 years and raised a family of four children: Kelly (Tom Laws), Brian (Lisa), Robin (Nate McMann), and Brett (Trisha). They also have six grandchildren.
“Hunting and fishing was big with our family and living there (in Kamiah) was a great opportunity to enjoy all that,” said Currin, who has taken up golfing since he moved to Boise.
Currin left the Clearwater Valley in 1987 after all four of his children graduated from Kamiah High School. He went on to other leadership positions as an Idaho educator and continues to work with students today as a semi-retired substitute teacher in the Boise School District. While only a portion of Currin’s more than 50 years in education took place in the Kamiah School District, his leadership during that time continues to be felt today.
After his induction, Currin shared some thoughts on receiving such an honor. “I thought that was a tremendous gesture on the part of people that put this together, first of all, that established the Hall of Fame; I thought that was a very unique kind of thing,” said Currin. “Most small communities are probably not near anything like that and certainly as you guys are beginning to gather people as they move down through the years at the district, it will be a great acknowledgement for them.
“I was very happy to have that opportunity [to be there] and I very much appreciated it,” added Currin.
Mercer graduated from Kamiah High School with the class of 1961. He attended the University of Idaho and earned a BS degree in 1967 and a MA education in 1975.
He has been employed by the Kamiah School District for 50 years; a teacher for 26 years, a coach for 30 years, and an administrator for 17 years. He also taught driver’s education for 26 years.
In 1977 he started the Fred Mercer Basketball Camp, which still continues today.
Mercer was awarded the Traffic Safety Educator of the Year in 1994. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the IHSAA in 2005.
Mercer officially retired in 2017. He and his wife Judy have been married over 50 years. Together they have three sons: Jeff, Jason, and Jared, along with their spouses. He also has nine grandchildren. Together they enjoy the outdoors (boating, hunting, and fishing) and spending time with family and friends.
The staff at the district office decided it would be a great idea to surprise Mercer with the news of his induction into the Hall of Fame and told only his close family members about the event.
On the evening of the football game after Currin received his recognition and plaque, Superintendent Steve Higgins then presented a plaque to Mercer, who was completely shocked and very humble.
“I thought the recognition of Mr. Squires was very appropriate, he is very deserving of that, I thought that was really special,” said Mercer. “Mr. Currin was here in the ’70s as a superintendent and he was instrumental in so many of the developments of our school.
“I talked to Mr. Higgins and Mr. Johnson right before that and I said I felt really awkward even being out there and said they could present that [award] to Mr. Currin and I wouldn’t need to get involved in it. I’m going to look like a fifth wheel,” said Mercer with a chuckle.
“I thought I was doing my duty and here I was a recipient. It was definitely a surprise that my family kept from me and I certainly didn’t anticipate receiving that type of recognition. I’m very appreciative of it and very surprised. Sometimes you feel a little inadequate on actually deserving something like that, but it’s very thoughtful and I receive it with a tremendous amount of pride and honor.”