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Merrill Vernon PERRY was born on April 7, 1932, in the guest bedroom at the family farm seven miles northwest of Prescott, Iowa, the fourth of six sons of James Olin and Eva Laurene PERRY. He was baptized at the Carl Methodist Church where he later became a member. His lifelong love of music began at this church with a revival led by the original Blackwood Brothers Quartet. It was at that time that he accepted Jesus as his Saviour.

He attended country school -- Carl #5 in Adams county -- grades one through seven and Plainview school for the eighth grade. His freshman year was spent in Corning with brother Clair who was a senior. The remaining three years, he attended the Prescott Consolidated school where he received his high school diploma. Merrill attended Tarkio College, Tarkio, Missouri, earning a bachelor of arts in music in 1953.

In 1952, he was united in marriage to Mary Lou HULETT and from this union two children were born, Lenora Elise in 1953 and David Mark in 1957. Merrill spent two years in the U. S. Army during the Korean conflict. Later he taught three years in the Conway Consolidated school where his duties consisted of music K-12, high school English, assistant coach, substitute bus driver, assistant janitor and principal pro tem.

He then went to the Maxwell Community school for three years, teaching high school and junior high music. While at Maxwell, he earned his masters degree in music education from Drake University. In the summer of 1961, Merrill and his family moved to Mount Ayr, Iowa where he developed a very successful band program. He was known as the "Old Band Man" even when he was young. His bands earned numerous first place awards in concert and marching band areas, with his students earning dozens of first place honors in solo and ensemble competition. Several of his students earned the honor of performing in the Iowa All State Band and Chorus, including his daughter Lesa. He was one of the first band directors in Iowa to start a jazz band.

On August 1, 1970, Merrill and Susan AVITT were united in marriage. They had been introduced by a former student, Phyllis BASTOW HAROVER. This merger brought together two families: Lesa 17, Mike 14, Dave 13 and Mark 12. An interesting time was had by all. In 1980 Merrill and Susan were given an opportunity to raise their two oldest grandchildren, Caleb and Cody COUTS. Both have now graduated from high school, Caleb in 1991 and Cody in 1993.

In 1984 Merrill resigned from the Mount Ayr Community schools after 29 years of teaching. He then became an insurance agent for Farm Bureau for nine and one-half years until poor health forced him to retire. After retirement he began a hobby of making lamps from old musical instruments.

Merrill was always active in community affairs, serving two terms as city councilman and one term as mayor. He was active in many organizations during the 38 years he lived in Mount Ayr, including the Lions Club, American Legion, Sheriff's Posse, Masons, Ringgold Singers and Methodist Men. He was also an original member of the Jolly Boys Club.

Merrill was an avid outdoorsman and loved to fish and hunt. This was one of the things that kept him in Ringgold county.

Through his work with Farm Bureau, Merrill earned trips for he and Susan to Vienna, Austria, the Caribbean and Florida.

Merrill is survived by his wife Susan; a daughter Lesa NURI of Oskaloosa; a son David and wife Lisa of Maryville, Missouri; two step-sons, Mike AVITT of Des Moines and Mark AVITT of Lewisville, Texas; seven grandchildren; three brothers, Jay and wife Beth of Creston, Doyle and wife Marilyn of St. Louis, Missouri and Russell and wife Starla of Richmond, Virginia; and a sister-in-law Joyce PERRY of Sharpsburg.

He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Eva PERRY; two brothers, Eugene and Clair; and his first wife Mary Lou.

Funeral services were held Friday, December 31, 1999 at the United Methodist Church in Mount Ayr with Reverend Michael DRUHL officiating. Prelude music was 1968 and 1971 recorded performances of the Mount Ayr high school band. Special music, "We've A Story To Tell," was by the choir and postlude music was from The Canadian Brass. Casketbearers were Daryl HOLDEN, John NEWTON, Dennis SCYHRA, Donald DAILEY, Fred STARK and Dan DAY.

Interment was in the Rose Hill Cemetery, Mount Ayr. Military graveside rites were given by Ringgold Post #172 American Legion.

Memorials have been established to the Mount Ayr Public Library and Mount Ayr Band Boosters.

Wilson-Watson & Armstrong Funeral Home was in charge of the arrangements.


Transciption and photograph by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2010

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