Jean Carmel (Catherin) Boyles died peacefully at the home she shared with her daughter, Renee Catherin, in Hailey, Idaho, on Nov. 15, 2022.

At the time of her passing she was with her daughter and surrounded by their four dogs. She passed away just before her 98th birthday.

Jean was born Dec. 9, 1924, in San Francisco, California. Her father, Edward Catherin, often took her camping at Big Sur, instilling a love for the outdoors she kept throughout her life. Her mother, Eugenia Wright, insisted she take the trolleys across town to attend Balboa High School, which focused on college preparation. She furthered her education attending the University of California, Berkeley, earning a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, and completing a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

At the age of 24, after her first teaching position in Hawaii, she moved to Boise, Idaho, to accept a teaching position at Boise Junior College in 1949, where she taught physical education: swimming, badminton, fencing, field hockey, archery and tennis, becoming the first women’s tennis coach at Boise State. She loved the outdoor life in Idaho including skiing in Sun Valley, even breaking her leg skiing on Dollar on the last run of the day.

In 1952, she met and married Don Boyles, spending their honeymoon working on a remote fire lookout tower on the Saint Joseph National Forest. (Don was hired as the lookout, she came along as the “wife,” though Don readily admitted that she was the principal fire finder). Jean continued to teach at Boise State Jr. College until just before they had their first child, when Jean was surprised by a letter from the College President dismissing her due to pregnancy. She later recalled she had no intention of quitting teaching just because she was pregnant. Over the next five years, she and Don had three children, Kent, Pamela and Renee. Jean was eventually approved to return to teaching at BJC, first part time and then again full time in 1966.

While Jean was at home raising children, she encouraged Don to complete his master’s degree despite tight finances, and she helped spearhead the “Head Start” preschool program in Boise as well as volunteering for the Red Cross as a Water Safety Instructor Certifier. She and Don divorced in 1969. Jean never remarried, but focused on raising her three children while teaching and coaching at BSU and competing in tennis tournaments herself. Jean was an avid tennis player and dominated both women’s singles and doubles in Southern Idaho tournaments in the 1970s and 80s. When her right shoulder wore out from years of play, she switched to her left hand, perfected an underhand serve and reclaimed her titles. Jean was emphatic that winning or losing made little difference—the thrill was in fighting for every point.

Jean also believed in the importance of physical activity for all, insisting on inclusion. She introduced a special swim class at BSU titled “Scaredy Cat Swim” for students who were fearful of water. A Cub Scout troop she started was open to boys and girls to allow both genders access to outdoor equipment and facilities and she recruited a gifted young man with Down Syndrome as assistant leader.

Jean was active in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and lived and raised her family according to the UU philosophy that accords each human being dignity and celebrates cultural differences. Jean enjoyed hosting foreign exchange students, teenage unwed mothers from Booth Memorial Hospital and professors on sabbatical from other countries. During the holidays, Jean filled the house with kids from the Boise Children’s Home and invited military servicemen who were on leave from the Air Force Base but were far from their homes. Jean especially relished accommodating these guests with food and surroundings that would make them feel at home, sometimes with mixed results! A Taiwanese professor and his family were astonished that the dining room table had no legs (Jean took them off before they arrived so we could all sit on the floor). This turned out NOT to be their custom and led to some hilarious confusion that was extended by a language barrier.

Professionally, following the passage of Title IX in the late 1970s, Jean helped usher in equal pay for equal work when she filed and won a class action suit against Boise State University so all women at BSU received equal pay for doing the same work as their male counterparts. She even competed in a mock Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs tennis match, playing against Dr. Snow from the psychology department, winning playing left-handed!

Jean retired from Boise State University in 1984. Following retirement, she volunteered for over twenty years at Snake River Alliance, protesting the shipments of nuclear waste to remote areas throughout the west and working to safeguard the Snake River aquifer from nuclear waste. She was a long-time member of the Women’s League of Voters and a lifelong antiwar and voter rights, civil rights and women’s rights activist.

She is survived by her good friend and tennis partner Betty (Dieter) Heycke of Seattle, Washington and by her three children: Kent (Denise) Boyles of Greensboro, North Carolina; Pamela de Loyola of Boise, Idaho; and Renee Catherin of Hailey, Idaho; five grandchildren: Micaela (Jonny) Carkin of Boise, Idaho; Damien de Loyola (Joel Fahnestock) of Kansas City, Missouri; Glenn (Kristin) Boyles of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Audrey (Assaad) Mrad of Durham, North Carolina; Augusta Catherin-Sauer of Billings, Montana; and one great-grandchild: Felix de Loyola-Carkin of Boise, Idaho.

Jean donated her body to science at Idaho State University (assisted by Wilkes Funeral Home). The family would like to give special thanks to Hospice and Palliative Care of Wood River Valley. Donations in her memory may be made to the Idaho Humane Society, Snake River Alliance or Hospice and Palliative Care of Wood River Valley.