Fred Mercer, 73
Denver's handball community lost one of its true gentlemen in Fred Mercer, June 1st. Fred passed peacefully and still looking handsome after an eight year battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his beloved wife of 47 years (his most vocal and loyal handball cheerleader) Erica, his son, daughters and grandchildren.
Fred had two great passions in his life, family and handball. He was at the top of the ladder in both. When Fred became too weak to compete He would still have Erica drop him off at the club so he could throw and hit the ball by himself just so he could still have the feel for the court.
Fred began playing handball while in ROTC at the U. of Indiana. He then joined the Air Force which jump started his career as a pilot. While stationed in Texas Fred met and fell in love with the lovely Erica, a native Austrian, and moved to Denver. Fred ultimately ended up as a captain flying for Frontier Airlines for 20 years.
Freddy soon became a fixture at the downtown YMCA, where he would greet you at the court with his engaging smile and easy way. He was such a pleasure to play because he was such a clean player. Fred exuded class on and off the court. His personality didn't change on the court, He was always the Gentleman! Fred had the classic handball style of that era. He had a big sweeping right hand stroke that was complemented by a powerful left hand fist and a beautiful ceiling game. When you watched Fred play it would remind you of Fred Lewis's game, very fundamentally sound. He was quite smooth and graceful for a tall man.
I remember a match I once reff'd between Fred Mercer and Denver legend Bob Brown. The match was close and Fred's #1 cheerleader or 12th man as they'd say in football, Erica, was screaming and taunting Bob. Bob turned to look up and say "Geez do I have to beat both of them" I said "yep they come as a package". Fred had many successes on the court but his best was probably a Master's regional win in Albuquerque.
Some of Fred's past and present handball adversaries would include: Jerry Donahue, Bob Brown, Larry Wood, Don Carlsen, Skip Harrison, Frank Costro, Steve Peace, Dean Bracucci,Dwayne Ingram, The Roth brothers, Jimmy Thorell, Mel Strauss, John Hardy, Bill Moyle, Al Moore, Stan Salz, Jim Costigan, Jim Loudner, Bob Hickman, Ken Ibsen, Don Stewart. My apologizes to the many more I can't recall.
Fred and his philosophies will be missed by more than just by the handball community. Some advice that he gave a young wedded Brewmaster friend of his was, "the best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother". That was Fred Mercer in a nutshell.