Herk Bouris Elementary School Will Honor Legacy of Pioneering Menifee Farmer

Construction is almost complete on Herk Bouris Elementary. In the late 1980s, when Lusk and Compan...

Construction is almost complete on Herk Bouris Elementary.

In the late 1980s, when Lusk and Company General Contractors was developing the Menifee Lakes community, a suggestion was made to name the new park at the corner of Menifee Road and La Piedra Road after prominent local resident Herk Bouris.

Bouris, one of the pioneering farmers of Menifee Valley, politely declined.

"Herk said, 'When I've been dead and gone 10 years, maybe you can do it then -- if anyone remembers me,' " recalled Herk's widow, Betty Bouris.

Herk was then asked what he knew about the land upon which the park had been constructed.

"I used to farm it. It was a wheat field," he said about what was eventually named Wheatfield Park.

It hasn't quite been 10 years since Herk Bouris' death in 2004, but local officials won't wait any longer to honor his legacy. And no, the people around here certainly have not forgotten who Bouris is and what he meant to the Menifee community.

In August, Herk Bouris Elementary School will open on the west edge of the Menifee Unified School District. Almost completed on a site on Canyon Hills Drive -- the western extension of Holland Road -- the school will serve more than 500 students in grades K-5.

Midge James, who will move over from Ridgemoor Elementary to become the first principal at Herk Bouris, headed a committee of 20 people from the community who voted on a name for the school. Following school board policy requiring the name to represent a "pioneer of sorts" in the area or a geographical attribute of the surroundings, the committee chose the name Herk Bouris Elementary.

"Many of the attendees were familiar with the Bouris family and shared with the group the contributions they made to the community since the early 1900s," James said. "One fact in particular was providential in that Herk's family grew fruits and vegetables in Menifee and sold the produce in their market in Lake Elsinore."

Although Herk Bouris Elementary is in the Menifee Union School District, its physical location lies within the city of Lake Elsinore.

In addition to the business they conducted with consumers in Lake Elsinore, members of the Bouris family had a profound impact throughout the Menifee Valley during the 1900s. Herk Bouris was a wheat farmer in Menifee for 55 years, harvesting wheat and sugar beets on many of the fields where new housing developments and parks now stand.

Herk's father, George Hercules Bouris, left his native Greece at age 14 and came to America in 1905. After working his way across the country, George married Mary Ballas and the couple bought a 640-acre farm in Menifee Valley.

Hercules George Bouris, known as Herk, was born in 1928 and grew up working on the family farm. After spending 18 months in the army during WWII, Herk returned home and married Betty Leake. They bought a farm on Zeiders Road, where Betty still lives.

L-R: Nephew Pete, Herk, son Mike.

Her son Mike now runs the facility, which is no longer an active farm but remains a local attraction as a museum of sorts.

Tourists and local school children alike tour the farm to see the impressive collection of tractors Herk loved to restore after retiring from his farming days.

"We're very honored," Betty Bouris said about the announcement that Menifee's newest school would be named after her late husband. "Herk was a good man, generous and hard working, very motivated."

Along with business partners Louis Krubsack and Chester Morrison -- for whom another local elementary school is named -- Herk leased 16,000 acres in the early 1960s from developer Del Webb, who had bought up much of the local land but needed only a small portion to develop Sun City.

Herk served on the State Sugarbeet Growers Board and State Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service. He also served on the Menifee School Board for eight years.

"I think Betty was a bit surprised when I asked her," James said about asking permission to name the school after Herk. "She immediately called her son Mike to get his opinion on the selection. I shared our process with her and she was immensely humble about the support that was given to the selection and the recognition of their family in this honorable way.

"There will be an opening ceremony to explain the contributions of our namesake, but prior to that I intend to send information out to our families in order that they know ahead of time and will able to share with their children the history of the family. We will have pictures of the family farm hanging throughout the most common hallways in the school."

As humble as he was, Herk Bouris would appreciate this honor, Betty believes.

"He never really wanted publicity," she said. "Even in retirement, he had more fun restoring the tractors than showing them off. But I think he would be OK with this."

Betty Bouris sits in front of the farm house the family still owns.


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