“Good fathers do three things: They provide, they nurture, and they guide”
— Author Unknown
Growing up my dad was a hard man to understand. By this I didn’t truly understand what he was teaching us until I had moved out and living by myself did I finally understand what exactly he had taught me. He was a teacher before he became a teacher.
Kieth Duane Fish was born November 5, 1946 in Northome, Minnesota to Gertrude and Donald Fish, the youngest of four sons. His dad used the i before e spelling of his name when he was born. It gave him trouble the rest of his life. The family would move to Montana and Idaho before settling down in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1970 he would move to Orofino, Idaho to work as a sawyer, someone who fell the trees in the lumber industry, for the Ponozzo Brothers later he would work for Potlatch Plywood Corporation. In 1971, he would meet Susan Aicher on a blind date setup by one of his brother’s mother-in-law and her niece. In 1972 they would become engaged and on December 27, 1972 they would be married in Woodburn, Oregon. Afterwards they would settle back in Orofino, Idaho where he would continue as a sawyer, and Sue continued as a high school teacher.
On August 17, 1977 they would celebrate the birth of their first son Duane Fish. A year and a half later their second son Donald Fish would be born on February 11, 1979. Four years later they would celebrate the birth of their only daughter Stephenie Fish on July 3, 1983. Later on when the boys had moved on with their own lives they would adopt this loud, outspoken, Italian woman who became my older sister Liza Micheli.
In the 80’s Kieth would leave the lumber industry and go back to school. He would get his Associates in Welding while working full time at Potlatch. Later he would get a Bachelor’s degree in business with honors from Lewis Clark State College. He would follow it up with a Masters Degree in Special Education from University of Idaho.
Kieth’s first job would be at Lyle High School in Lyle, Washington. He would be there for two years helping students inside and outside the classroom. He took his two sons with him, and we would travel every weekend to visit mom and Stephenie. Afterwards he accepted a job in Clarkston, Washington to bring the family back together. He would be employed by Timberline High School in Pierce, Idaho followed by Elko Junior High School. He would be with Elko Junior High School which later became Adobe Middle School from 1992 until his retirement in 2011.
Outside of school, Kieth could be seen with the Ruby Mountain Lions Club where he served in multiple offices up to his death. He also worked tirelessly with the annual man-mule races in Lamoille. He served as the District 3 Representative of the Elko County Board of Trustees from 2016 until his death. He recently was unopposed in his reelection.
Dad taught us that you’re never too old to learn or to do something with your life. He went back to school later on in life and achieved two degrees. While the kids were busy swimming, he would take it upon himself to learn how to swim a little better. He also changed the course of his life by changing his career to something that would become his passion in life.
The one thing a lot of people will remember about dad is his coffee. Every parent on the swim team could count on him for their early morning cup of coffee. He would be one of the first adults awake in the mornings and the very first smell was the coffee brewing. He always made sure to keep a thermos full for himself as well as carry around a coffee cup. I can actually thank him for my own addiction to this stuff.
While on the way home from Lyle, Washington for the weekend he had just poured himself a new cup of coffee. He always forgot about a sharp curve in the road but tonight he would remember it. He hit the brakes for the curve and successfully maneuvered the curve but his coffee cup, which was too big for the holder, hit his leg and poured hot coffee down into his cowboy boot. Two young boys learned new words that night. When he got a chance to pull over the coffee had burnt his ankle and foot pretty bad. He waited until we got home to Orofino to take care of it.
Dad was always active with the swim team in both Idaho and Nevada as all three children swam. He would be a judge for the swimming events, in Idaho he would help sell fireworks for their annual fundraiser, he helped the children get to their events on time, and make sure that things ran smoothly around the camping sites or wherever we might be staying.
Dad was always a person you could rely on and he instilled it into his children. There was a lesson in the stuff he taught his children. Dad would wake up the two boys to go to open swim in the morning an hour before swim team practice would start. He would push us two boys because he wanted us to see our own potential and not to go with the minimum performance. Dad would also use this same teaching tactic with his students to drive them to their full potential not allowing them to fall victim to how the other students saw them.
When I was 10 years old or so Dad wanted me to back his car out of the garage. I opened up the door, sat in the car seat, closed the car door, and rolled down the window. Dad reopened the car door so “he could watch me since it was a clutch”. I pushed the clutch pedal down and put my foot on the gas. I started up the car and it rocketed backwards. I hadn’t pushed in the clutch all the way in. The door ripped out of his hand and took out the 2x4s holding the garage door railing. I ran towards the front door right as soon as the car died, scurried around my mom who at this time was in the doorway wondering what the big boom was, and disappeared. Later on Mom would be relaying to Grandma about what happened telling her “That the oldest child gave the second oldest child the keys to the car and took out the garage door”. My grandmother exclaimed “Duane gave Donald the keys to the car!!” Mom calmly replied “No Kieth gave Duane the keys to the car”. I never got into any problems from that because Dad knew it was more his fault than anything else.
Dad always had a good sense of humor. In June of 1993 he took Donald and I hiking in Lamoille Canyon with our dog Kiska. We hiked up to one of the lakes there and it was something that shocked the two boys so we told dad that we were going to jump into it. Dad didn’t say much but let us go ahead and jump into the lake. Right as soon as we hit the water we immediately lost our breath because of how cold it was. My dad laughed at us and continued to while we scrambled up and out of the lake. He pointed out the snowpack that was feeding the lake on the other side. So the two boys were taught to always look before leaping even in the month of June in Lamoille Canyon. Karma had a lesson to teach dad that day as our dog had stumbled across a pile of horse manure on the side of the road and proceeded to roll around on it. We ended up with a smelly dog on the 40+ minute drive back to Ryndon.
While I was younger dad went out and picked chives in the yard for his potato salad. My cousin Bruce, who was living with us at the time, told me that dad had put grass into his potato salad. I still refuse to eat his potato salad because of the “grass” seasoning. I had to explain this to him when he caught me eating potato salad years later that wasn’t his.
Dad went home early one year from our vacation in Washington to go back home to Orofino. He stopped at a shelter on the way home and picked up a dog “forgetting” to tell mom or the kids. When the rest of the family arrived home and started to unload the car Stephenie came running up saying that there was a dog in the backyard. Nobody really believed her until one of the two boys went with her to confirm. They both came back telling mom that there was indeed a dog in the backyard. I cannot remember the talk that mom and dad had at the time, but dad won in the end and we had a dog. When we moved to Nevada we would end up adopting the dog the previous owners had as well as adopting multiple cats to help keep the mice population down.
When we lost Stephenie, dad kept his emotions to himself. You could tell it was rough on him but he wouldn’t express it in public. Once in a while he would tear up and have a moment, but it would pass as quickly as it came. He was a very private person when it came to him. He very rarely talked about himself during the times we talked on the phone. While he was fighting cancer I remember calling him up and he told me I called the wrong phone number. I told him no I hadn’t because I wanted to talk to him. We talked about how the medication was goofing up his kidneys at the time and it was either he would be put on dialysis for the rest of his life or let the cancer kill him if he went off the medication. At this time he was at a plateau in the fight and things really hadn’t changed for a little while. I told him that it was his decision, I said that I loved him, and I would stand by his decision. I could not tell him yes or no because I still wanted him to be there but at the same time he didn’t want to be a burden on the family. In the end I seriously think that it shocked us both how the converstation turned into one that we both needed at that moment.
No matter how hard it was for my dad and I were to express our emotions toward each other I knew he loved me as well as our family unconditionally, just we loved him unconditionally.