'It just uplifts you'

Conrad and Lydia Kercher receive the 2016 Laramie Chamber Business Alliance Ag Leadership Award on Oct. 20 from Sharleen Castle.

SARA HAUGEN/Boomerang staff

Sara Haugen

On Oct. 13, Conrad, or “Connie,” and Lydia Kercher were discussing their wide-open schedule for the week. By the time Monday morning came, their day was overflowing with to-do lists and volunteer work.

“We just try to do what we can,” Lydia said. “We just try to be busy and do as much volunteer work as we can that comes our way.”

Conrad and Lydia have devoted their lives to agriculture and community service in Albany County for 52 years.

This is what spurred the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance nominating committee to award Lydia and Connie with the 2016 Ag Leadership Award.

“The award involves both community people as well as ag people,” said Kathy Guffey, a member of the nominating committee. “The person we select has to have some kind of involvement in both things.”

The Kerchers both grew up in a small Montana ranching town, surrounded by agriculture. Connie pursued the ag industry and eventually worked for 42 years in the animal science department at the University of Wyoming.

Lydia also worked at UW for 22 years after completing her degree in business education.

Throughout this time, Lydia and Connie not only developed a passion for teaching youth and young adults, but they also discovered a general love for community service.

“I just think No. 1, it just uplifts you, and I think it keeps you young,” Lydia said.

From being with the same bank for 62 years to Connie’s ongoing 20-year service with the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site Foundation Board, Connie and Lydia said it is the community that has kept them in Laramie.

“We are just very thankful to be in this community and do what we can do,” Lydia said.

The Kerchers have been involved with dozens of volunteer organizations; some include the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, SAFE Project, Laramie Soup Kitchen, Interfaith-Good Samaritan and Heart to Heart Pregnancy Center.

What is unique about the Kerchers is they have continued to volunteer and be involved in the community — even after retirement, Guffey said.

“For years, they have provided leadership by making volunteerism easy to participate in for many,” she said.

This includes hosting events at the Wyoming Territorial Prison, such as chili cook-offs, beer fests and Butch Cassidy Days, which all support the development of the park.

Guffey said the couple, as well as their daughters, have established annual scholarships for UW students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“They set an example in generosity in donating their time and also their money,” she said.

The Kerchers are also dedicated to community service work on an as-needed-basis.

Lydia said a project that was important to her was her time at the Hospice of Laramie. She volunteered for several years until the organization could afford to hire employees.

“The Bible tells us as long as you have breath you should serve,” Lydia said. “We are still breathing so we want to still serve if there is something we can do.”

International service projects and travel have provided experiences for the Kerchers to bring back to the Laramie community.

Connie served as an Agricultural Consultant in Afghanistan for six weeks in 1971. He returned to Laramie after his service and created a scholarship specifically for international students at UW.

Lydia said they essentially traveled around the entire world.

“From travel experience, one of the things you gain is appreciation for all people you know, especially appreciation for our country and community,” she said.

In retirement, the couple said they take one day at a time. Lydia recently broke her leg; however, she is still volunteering at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.

They hope to continue traveling the world as long as they still can, with a trip planned to Mexico in the spring. Lydia said they would also continue with community service work, as it brings them happiness.

“We live as best as we know how,” she said. “We just look at what’s available and what we can do, and then we do it.”

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