NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

RML Campus Mourns Loss of Photographer Kercher

Kercher in sunshades and sunhat with wide brim, with mountains behind him
Bryan Kercher in 2020 stands atop Table Mountain in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming.

Bryan Kercher, who was responsible for practically every NIH photo over the last decade showing the serene Montana setting at NIAID’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories, died in a climbing accident on May 8. He was 55.

The accident took place on Sugarloaf Peak, about 30 miles south of the RML campus in Hamilton, where Kercher had worked for nearly two decades. He began as an RML security guard in the early 2000s before NIH’s Office of Research Facilities hired him in 2008 as an engineering technician, the position he held at the time of his death.

Along with having key roles in most every facility project at RML, Kercher also was heavily involved with Club RML, part of the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association. He was a mainstay in several community groups and activities, from Boy Scouts of America to the Rocky Mountaineers. His knowledge of, and stories from, local trails and peaks—Glacier National Park in particular—regularly inspired friends and coworkers.

Whether at work or play, Kercher often carried multiple cameras so he could be sure to share his experiences: Progress on an RML construction project; a moose wandering next to the RML campus; the glistening spray from Sweathouse Falls; breathtaking views from an ascent of Alaska’s Denali.

An exemplary worker, Kercher always led by his humble and quiet demeanor, willing to do whatever was needed, with a smile, and often behind the scenes.

“Bryan played an absolutely critical role on our facilities management team,” said his supervisor at RML, Eric Hanssen, during a campus memorial gathering. “With all he was involved in and responsible for, he is truly irreplaceable. Not only have we lost an incredibly talented coworker and colleague, we have lost a friend who we interacted with almost every day.”

Birdseye view of the Rocky Mountain Labs campus in Montana
One of the last photos Kercher took of the RML campus, May 6, via a drone

Photo:  Bryan Kercher

The NIH Record

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