Obituary: Richard W. Merrill

Richard W. Merrill, 78, was born in Brookline, Mass., on May 29, 1943, to Leonard A. Merrill Jr. and Dorothy (Barr) Merrill. He passed away on July 26, 2021, at his home, with his wife, Joan, daughter, Jennifer, and best friend, Doug, by his side.

Although he grew up in New Jersey, Dick spent his summers working on his grandfather's farm in Peterborough, N.H. Those were some of the happiest days of his life as he loved the farm and the outdoors. He also learned many life lessons from his beloved grandparents, Leonard and Gertrude Merrill.

Dick graduated from Passaic Valley High School in Little Falls, N.J., in 1961, and went on to study zoology at Cornell University, graduating in 1967. He took a leave of absence from Cornell in 1964, to work for Smithsonian Institution as a field technician, doing a Pacific Ocean Biological Survey for the Division of Birds. Before returning to Cornell, he married Joan Miskelly of Keene, N.H., in 1965, and they lived in Ithaca, N.Y., until Dick graduated.

Upon graduation, Dick began work at the Cleveland Ohio Zoological Park as the zoologist and assistant director. He was responsible for the development and maintenance of the entire zoological collection of over 1200 specimens, and helped design and build the bear dens, open range displays, the service building and animal care center, and the cat and ape building. He wrote a Guidebook for Plants and Shrubs in the Park, and co-hosted a series on zoo animals for local NBC television. He also taught a class at Cuyahoga Community College on zoology in the zoo.

After leaving the Cleveland Zoo, Dick turned to education so he could teach his love of animals and all things related to science to the next generation. The family moved to Maine where he taught science courses at Berwick Academy in South Berwick. He was advisor to the Outing Club and ran programs in canoeing, summer and winter camping, hiking and winter mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, and summer scuba diving. His Columbus Day camping trips for students to Acadia National Park were a highlight every year.

During the summer months he worked at a local hardware store, and was active on the lecture circuit, speaking to various community and state groups for the purpose of extending knowledge of far-off places (such as the South Pacific) to those who would never be able to visit them, and enabling them to understand scientific research techniques.

He also advised NASA engineers on bird anatomy and physiology for airplane safety studies during the 1970s, presenting seminars on the structural integrity of the bird

Moving to Minnesota, in 1984, Dick taught at Shattuck-St. Mary's School, in Faribault. Then it was on to Colora, Md., where he became chair of the science department at West Nottingham Academy. He and his wife, Joan, (also a teacher) were dorm parents in a dormitory housing 46 boys.

As the retirement years approached, the Merrills returned to New Hampshire to continue teaching in the local public high schools in Berlin, Gorham and Whitefield.

Dick was very active in civic affairs in Berlin and served on the planning board. Upon retirement from teaching, he became the operations manager at Northern Forest Heritage Park, (now known as Service Credit Union Heritage Park). There he maintained the buildings, worked as a blacksmith, gave boat tours on the Androscoggin and cleared the area to provide beautiful views of the river north of the park.

Dick was predeceased by his mother, father (who died in World War II), and step-father, James Withey.

He is survived by Joan, his beloved wife of 56 years; his two children and their spouses: daughter, Jennifer and husband Andrew Johns of Ohio; son, Laochailin Maghouin and wife Robbie of Seattle, Wash.; his two grandchildren, Kit Johns and Michael Johns, both of Ohio; his brother Robert Merrill of Idaho, and his sisters, Barbara Withey of Florida and Marjorie Crook of Arizona. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins.

A celebration of Dick's life will be held on Monday, Aug.16, at the Service Credit Union Heritage Park in Berlin, from 4 to 7 p.m. The Park will be supplying sandwiches and salads. Everyone is invited to bring stories about Dick to share.

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