Doreen Edith Merrell, 89, died at home surrounded by the love of her family on August 9, 2013.
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She was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 1, 1924. Her family later lived in Indiana and Michigan before moving to Superior, Wisconsin where her father worked for Standard Oil. When Doreen started school in Superior, she was placed in the same fifth grade class as Theodore Merrell who, twelve years later, would become her husband. In school, Doreen was an excellent and popular student, valedictorian and queen of the senior class prom. She briefly attended Superior State College before moving with her family to Bellingham, Washington, where she took classes at Western Washington College.
During World War II Doreen and her sister worked as telephone operators in Seattle. They lived in a University of Washington fraternity house, since most of the male students were away fighting the war. It was on a picnic to Orcas Island that Theodore Merrell, by then in the Army and on his way to the South Pacific, asked Doreen to marry him.
After their wartime engagement, Doreen and Theodore-he called her Dor and she called him Tod-were married in Bellingham on August 8, 1946. They resumed their studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and their first son, Ted, was born two days after Tod graduated. The little family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan while Tod completed graduate school at the University of Michigan and then drove their '39 Ford to Oregon, where he began his career as a fisheries research biologist.
In 1956 the family, now larger after the birth of Bruce and Susan, flew in a Pan American Stratocruiser to Juneau where Tod had been "lured" to take a position with the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. They rented space in a halibut fisherman's house overlooking Auke Bay and although they had intended to return to Oregon after a few years, fell in love with the area and decided to stay. They bought a house on Fritz Cove Road and another daughter, Mindy, was born in Juneau. After fifty-seven happy Alaskan years Tod and Doreen's home is still on Fritz Cove Road.
In addition to being a full-time housewife and mother, Doreen later returned to school to train as a secretary and worked part-time at the University of Alaska Southeast. She and Tod tent-camped for years and then upgraded to a fifth-wheel trailer, and finally a motorhome in which they explored the U.S. and Canada. They also loved travelling abroad, to the Galapagos Islands, Peru, the U.S.S.R., Finland, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ireland, Portugal, Turkey, and Australia.
Doreen enjoyed singing soprano solos in church and belonged to church choirs and a barbershop quartet. She took voice lessons and studied classical music at UAS. Doreen was an active member of the Juneau Garden Club, volunteered at the Amazing Book Store and at the State Museum gift shop. She also loved quilting for Lutheran World Relief, and playing bridge. She prided herself on her cooking and was famous for her dinner rolls.
Doreen died one day after their sixty-seventh wedding anniversary. Her brother Bruce Gillett died a week before Doreen. She is survived by her husband Tod, children Ted (Lucy) of Juneau, Bruce (Sharon) of Anchorage, Susan Johnson of Carlsbad, California, and Mindy of Palmer, Alaska; sister Bunny Hammersla of Edmonds, Washington, grandchildren Tori (Marc) Hoffmann, Nelson (Lena) Merrell, Kirsten (Colin) Kippen, Andrew (Althea) Merrell, Summer (James) Paterson, Parker Johnson, and Casey Muir; and great-grandchildren Ryan Muir, Paige Paterson, and Seaver Merrell.
A memorial service will be held at Resurrection Lutheran Church on Sunday, August 18th at 12:30pm. In lieu of flowers, donations in Doreen's memory may be made to Hospice and Home Care of Juneau, 419 6th Street, Juneau, AK 99801. Remembrances may be sent to 3240 Fritz Cove Road, Juneau, AK 99801.
Published in The Juneau Empire from Aug. 14 to Aug. 16, 2013