My Dad, Charles Ammon Merrell, passed away on April 29, 2011. This post is the transcript of remarks I made at his funeral on May 5, 2011. I have color-coded different parts (black is me, red are direct quotes from my Dad, and blue was my Mom). Grandpa was/is someone we can learn much from; a strong branch of your family tree. In publishing this, I hope to help you always remember....
Recently my daughter, Shelby, interviewed Dad as part of a project for a class at BYU. I have used portions of that interview in my remarks.
Dad began his life story with:
“I was born at a very early age on January 18, 1934 in the tiny town of Virden, New Mexico. “ (sounds just like him!)
“I grew up on a farm and that was not fun. It was so much work, and I don’t miss it at all. In Duncan my family had a farm where we grew onions as the main crop, tomatoes as the sub-crop. We grew a lot of alfalfa hay.
And fought weeds.
- They were terrible in those days. We couldn’t spray them, we just had to go in and dig them out. And when you try to do that for forty or eighty acres, you just know it’s bad. So I don’t miss it.”
I remember stories Dad would tell of other things he and his friends did when they weren’t digging weeds
- · tipping outhouses
- · doorbell ditching with burning bags full of cow manure waiting on the doorsteps for unsuspecting neighbors.
- · Stealing pies that were cooling on the 2nd story window sill of the Home Ec classes at school
- · Legend has it that one day his friends picked his car up (it was apparently a very tiny car), carried it into the school and left it in the hall. Dad had to figure out how to get it out!
While in High School, he was involved in many other (legitimate) extra-curricular activities: Tennis, Band – he played the trumpet, Basketball, F.F.A.
In 1952, at the age of 18, Dad joined the Navy. He didn’t want to get drafted into the Army and he was too young for a mission. He joined up with his friend Tom Helms.
He had never been out in the world, really – just New Mexico and Idaho, and ended up at Boot Camp in San Diego.
“We did a lot of marching around. I never knew why we were marching. I just thought, “Well, this is stupid.” But I guess it was just part of the deal.”
After boot camp, Dad was assigned to an aircraft carrier that was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia.
“My buddy and I would volunteer to work on the flight deck. We didn’t have to. We were supposed to be down in the shop fixing radar and communication things. But we volunteered for the flight deck, which most didn’t want to do. It was hard work, but it was exciting. We each drove a Jet Start, a little yellow car. They were very small with a generator on it, and our purpose was to furnish the power to start the engine. Thus, the name. And that was exciting, it was fun.”
While in the Navy, this boy from a tiny little town in eastern Arizona found himself in exotic ports all over the world - Guantanamo Bay, the Dominican Republic; Spain (In Spain he and his buddies went to a bullfight and were asked to leave because they were cheering for the bull, not the bull fighter!), France, Vienna, Naples and Greece. He visited Cape Town, South Africa, Vietnam; Manila, Philippines; Japan and Hawaii; San Francisco and finally in Bremerton, WA where they put the second ship he served on (USS Midway) out of commission.
After Bremerton Dad was given two choices of where he would be transferred to.Antarctica or San Diego. It wasn’t a hard choice.
And it was a good transfer because San Diego is where he met Patricia.
Dad met Mom at church and they (obviously) hit it off very well. Mom’s friend, Lynette remembers pointing Dad out to Mom one day at church and “that was it”. Chuck became the focus of her life. Mom was a senior in High School when she met Dad and except for the boy who had already asked her to Prom, she never dated another boy after she met Dad. They were married a year later - June 4, 1957. (Almost 54 years ago!)
Dad says that when Mom accepted his proposal “It was the best thing that happened to me.”
And they are still so in love.
Mom told Dad recently:
“Charley, I think I’ve loved you all my life. As soon as I saw you I knew we were supposed to be together.”
By this time Dad had left the Navy life and was working for Household Finance. Climbing the corporate ladder meant promotions and transfers to Grand Junction, CO; Reno, NV, Salt Lake City and then back to California, finally settling back in Oceanside, CA, where they raised their four children.
Household Finance was eventually replaced with different entrepreneurial ventures.
Since the late 1970’s Mom and Dad have worked together, basically joined at the hip for 24x7.
Dad was very family oriented
He loved being a Dad – and I’m sure he loved being a Grandpa even more!
He liked to camp and to fish,
He enjoyed working in his yard.
But, his greatest hobby was his children and his family
For several years he enjoyed delivering The Clipper. I think one reason he liked it so much was that his grandson James could be with him and help out on many of those deliveries.
There are three “pillars” that I think represent Dad:
His humor was a blessing to himself and to others through out his entire life, but especially during his fight with Pancreatic Cancer. He always managed to bring a little light into the lives of the many nurses, doctors, technicians and aides who cared for him over the last few years. Even in his last days he would surprise us with little moments of humor that would help lighten the moment.
Mom says it best:
“He always made me laugh. His humor was automatic; he was wonderful.”
He is undoubtedly still wonderful.
2. Kindness / Service
Dad was genuine - The “Public” Chuck was the same Dad we had at home.
In our home he was a beacon of patience, service and Christ-like love.
He taught us how to serve by serving in our home, the church and the community.
In the late 70’s Dad was a partner in a couple of waterbed stores in the San Diego area. I was privileged to work with him, managing one of the stores. Dad would do whatever needed to be done to get a satisfied customer. Dad was known to set up a waterbed for a customer at any hour if needed. He was the epitome of Customer Service.
Many people have been recipients of Dad’s generous kindness and his desire to serve others over the years.
3. Testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
“But even for all the stories, I think what’s been most important in my life is the gospel. The church was always a part of my life.”
His testimony was forged early in his youth:
“I was raised in the church and I guess I always knew the church was true, deep down. But I remember once, in Primary, the teacher was correcting me for something. She took me into a room, just the two of us and she bore her testimony to me right then and there; the kind that you could really hear and understand and know. And I felt it then. That was when I first really knew I had a testimony, just a little bit, but talking to her – I just felt something.”
“And I remember my baptism. Way back when, I changed it into a bedtime story. It starts out like all good stories should, with once upon a time.
“Once upon a time there was a little boy that wanted to be baptized. He was already eight years old, then he was eight years and a month and two months and three months and he still hadn’t been baptized. So he went to his parents and said, “I want to be baptized because I’m over eight-years-old.” And they said, “We can get to it when it gets warmer” because we didn’t have a baptism font over there. But I wanted to be baptized no matter what. I quoted some scriptures to them and I said, “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.” That means, of course, do what is right no matter what. That sold them. And that evening my Bishop and Dad and some other priesthood holders came up to the house. It was dark already, but we all went up to the head gate by the irrigation ditch. And with just a lantern, right there they baptized a little boy who really wouldn’t be little anymore. And that’s my story.”
His testimony was challenged in the Navy:
“It was on that first ship, my 1st Class Petty Officer and the Meeting Chief were both Southern Baptist. They were neat guys; I had nothing against them. I actually liked going to shore with them because they never went to the places other sailors went. But they wanted nothing more than to make me a Southern Baptist. They kept bringing me these anti-Mormon books, teaching out them. And I went down to an old used bookstore once and bought a couple of those books they were quoting out of (which I wouldn’t recommend, by the way). I read them and I guess I couldn’t come to terms with them, because those books are still somewhere in the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, right where they belong.”
Finally,, he shares his last testimony with each of us:
“I do have a testimony. I lean on it a lot, and I’ll never doubt it. I have plenty of faith. I know [the Gospel] is true and I know where I’m going. At least I know I’ll have the opportunity to go there, if they’ll let me. I don’t know if they will keep me or not. I have no reservations of dying. I have a testimony. I look back at my life and I see the many places I’ve gone, the things I’ve done, the people I’ve known – there’s no doubt in my mind that the church is true.”
My Dad has had an amazing life, one that can truly be celebrated, for it was well lived in Christ-like love and service to all who were blessed to know him.
Dad fought a good fight, he finished his course, and he kept the faith:
And as all good bedtime stories promise… he will live “happily ever after.”
I love you,
The Mama B