Catching up with Rich Kerr

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Editor's note: This is the first in a summer-long series called MoCo Memories that will take a look at the lives of former Moffat County student athletes who adorned the sports pages of the Craig Daily Press in the past.

From his first years in Craig to his time now in Alaska, living in a tent is something Richard "Rich" Kerr has become accustomed to.

Kerr moved to Craig from Michigan with his family when he was 4. His family came to Craig for his dad, Bill, to find a job during the boom in the late 1970s.

So many people were coming to Craig that the Kerr family lived in a tent at the Freeman Reservoir for a month, because they couldn't find an apartment.

While living in the tent, Richie's father helped build the high school. Once the family found a place in Craig, Richie's mom, Laurie Johnson, started working at Safeway and his dad worked for the Colowyo Coal Company.

The Kerrs stayed in Craig for all of Rich's time in school from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Kerr graduated from Moffat County High School in 1992. During his high school years Kerr participated in football, wrestling, baseball and track.

He had many different teachers in the four years he attended MCHS, but one of his science teachers, Pete Bergmann, stood out.

Along with being Kerr's science teacher, Bergmann also was also one of his baseball coaches.

"Mr. Bergmann really knew how to get through to students," Kerr said.

Bergmann returned the compliments.

"(Kerr) was a happy guy," Bergmann said. "He always had a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye. He was as good of guy as you'd want to have in class."

When it came to his athletic endeavors, Kerr said that football and wrestling were his best areas.

One of the reasons he enjoyed football so much was because of his teammates. He played football with some of his teammates from as far back as kindergarten. When Kerr thought about wrestling he remembered his old coaches, Roman Gutierrez, Ron Linsacum, and Donald Guffy.

Wrestling was Kerr's favorite sport. He said it also was the most difficult and most rewarding.

His senior year he went to state at 152 pounds and placed fourth. He also played split end and safety on the most successful MCHS football team in more than 30 years. The 1991 team reached the state semifinals, losing to Trinidad, 48-28.

"I really liked those guys," Kerr said about his former coaches. "Coach Guffy was really cool."

The one thing that Kerr remembered the most about his high school years was the friendships.

Kerr was selected as the Army All-Star his senior year. After he graduated he went into the Army where he served for two and a half years at Fort Hood, Texas. After he got out of the Army he went to Fort Lewis College in Durango. to get his degree in engineering. After two years in Durango Kerr went to Michigan to live with family.

Kerr and a friend decided one day they wanted to go to Alaska to work on a fishing boat.

They drove his friend's car across the country to the 49th state.

Upon arriving they quickly found out that there were no jobs with a fishing boat. Kerr's friend sold the car that they had drove up to Alaska, for a plane ticket back to Michigan and left Kerr in Alaska by himself with no money.

Kerr eventually wound up on Kodiak Island, where, just like two decades before in Craig, he lived in a tent.

For food, Kerr would wait for the tide to go down to collect his food. There was a boulder on the island that had a hole in it and every time the tide lowered, fish were left in the hole.

Since he was just in a tent, Kerr was worried about the Kodiak bear, so he took various trash items, like soda cans, and hung them up in a tree next to his tent. Very early one morning Kerr woke up by the sounds of the cans.

When he looked outside he saw the bear trying to get into the trash hanging in the tree.

"Being in track could have helped me run from the bear," he said. But he never had to run as the bear eventually went away.

After that Kerr decided to go somewhere else.

Kerr is now working as a derrick man, or a rigger, in Glenn Allen, Alaska.

He has been married for seven years and has three children. His family's house is in Homer, but while he is an oil worker he is doing something that he learned to do in his first month in Craig -- camping out with his family in Glenn Allen.

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