ZEPHYR — When voters approved the four-phase, $4.35 million bond package proposed by the Zephyr Independent School District Nov. 6, Superintendent David Whisenhunt said he figured as much as $150,000 would have to be dedicated to buying land.
That was before Blaine Quirl, 90, who lives on acreage just north of Zephyr that’s been in his family for more than a century, stepped forward.
Whisenhunt said he “almost fell out of my chair” when he learned about Quirl’s willingness to donate approximately 30 acres of land where the school district now plans to build its new physical education complex, including a new football field and track.
Quirl met Whisenhunt and other school officials at his property at the intersection of U.S. Highway 84-183 and FM 1467, the Blanket Highway, several days before Christmas. They were joined by a Don King Surveying team which was retained to establish the extent of the property Quirl will donate.
“It’s approximately 30 acres,” Whisenhunt said. “When we first came out here to look it over, (Quirl) pointed out the boundaries he had in mind. Then he asked me, ‘Are you sure that’s going to be enough land?’”
Whisenhunt assured him that it will be plenty.
“His generous donation of these approximately 30 acres will be plenty of land for the Zephyr school district for years to come,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s quite a gift. It’s prime property, right here on the main highway. It’s very visible. Everybody’s driven by it.”
As the survey team of King, Kyle Ellis and Rene Sifuentes started its work, Quirl got a brief explanation of the equipment the crew was using. Then, an acquaintance driving through Zephyr stopped his pickup at the intersection to offer greetings.
Quirl immediately recognized a friend.
“How are you doing, old man?” Quirl told Choc Wetzel. He turned to those around him and explained that Wetzel, who is one month his senior, is one of the few people in the county older than he is. They discussed what was happening before Wetzel drove on toward Blanket.
The only restriction to the gift is that the complex somehow honor the Quirl name when it’s completed, the superintendent said.
“The name will be attached to the complex somehow, and we’re pleased to do that,” Whisenhunt said. “We’re excited about it. We’ll just have to figure out how his name will be used.”
Quirl’s grandfather, John “Newton” Quirl, settled the property in Brown County in 1903, Quirl said. Quirl was born July 27, 1917. As a younger man, he competed in rodeo events and went on trail rides.
Whisenhunt said it’s ironic that the man whose name will be connected to the football complex didn’t have much of a interest in the sport until his marriage to Ruby. That prompted Quirl to adjust his interests.
As news of the land donation spread on campus before the Christmas break, students started writing Quirl letters of thanks and admiration. Small student groups also paid the Quirls visits.
“The students really enjoyed their time with him,” Whisenhunt said. “And we saw that he had received stacks of letters.”
Whisenhunt said Zephyr students have excelled in athletics, stock shows and other extracurricular despite the lack of modern facilities, if they had any local facilities for certain projects at all. Plans being developed for the new facilities are expected to include a new football field, track, dressing rooms, and soccer and baseball fields.
“Zephyr has been experiencing growth for several years,” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve added over 80 kids in the last 15 years. Consultants the school district hired said we can expect to grow by 100 or more kids in the next 10 years. We’re right here in a growth area where people are moving into rural areas in Mills and Brown counties.”
The first phase of the bond-funded construction involves the construction of a new football field and track.
“I hope I’m still around to see it,” Quirl said.
Whisenhunt said he would be surprised if Quirl wasn’t there on opening night.
The second phase includes a new wastewater treatment and water displacement plant.
Phase III includes the new physical education complex with a new gym, offices, classroom and technology labs, plus lighted tennis courts, lighted outdoor basketball courts and a children’s playground for community fitness and family outdoor recreation. A fourth phase, if money allows, would provide a new cafeteria with auditorium.
“We really think it will be a $5 million project before it’s over,” Whisenhunt said.
The building that houses the schools’ library and technology department was built in 1927, Whisenhunt said, and the gym was constructed between 1938 and 1944. The newest portions of the school were completed or updated in 1979 and 1989.
“Technology is so important to the education of young people these days,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s going to be even more important in the years to come.”
And throughout those years, Whisenhunt added, the Quirl name will be synonymous with Zephyr school.