Susan B. Merritt (1920 - 2015)

  • "I can hear Sue's laughter from here! What a shining..."
    - Holly Korda
  • "Just set this up so that it will run permanently. Please..."
  • "I keep hearing Sue laugh. She was a very special woman. I..."
    - Deidre Ganopole
  • "Thanks all for the kind messages and memories of Mom. ..."
    - Morgan Merritt
  • "Dear Kelly and Family: We were so very sorry to hear about..."
    - Ann Reel

Susan Baker Merritt, 95, passed away of old age early Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, in Anchorage, Alaska. Sue will be remembered for her clear perception, steady encouragement, storytelling and hearty laughter. The family plans to celebrate her life with friends on Oct. 3, 2015, in Anchorage, and will soon announce the location and time. Born in Oakland, Calif., she and her brother, Gordon Baker, lived with their mother, Grace E. Meyers, in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif. In hard times living with her mother they moved 12 times, often at night. Despite poverty, she excelled in studies to graduate high school two years early and earned a full scholarship to UCLA, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in '41 with a teaching certificate and degrees in English and history. She enjoyed her first teaching job in Lindsay, Calif., but suffered from giant painful hives. Her doctor suggested she move to Alaska as a cure, and she took a steam ship to Seward in 1944. On that war-time cruise with night blackouts she formed a life-long friendship with Helmi Karjala, who later married Gordon Jensen of Petersburg. Sue taught high school that winter in Palmer, Alaska, and danced barefoot in the first snow she ever saw. There she met friends Francis and Jimmy Hulbert. The next two summers she worked in the cannery kitchen at Ugashik on Bristol Bay. She said, "Then there was no power on the bay," meaning that the fishermen rowed and sailed dories. In '45 she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she met and married G. William Merritt. George and Viola Parker were among their best Fairbanks friends. In Fairbanks, the Merritts had three children and then a fourth in San Jose, Calif., where they moved in '55. In '58 they returned to Alaska, this time Anchorage, in time to celebrate statehood at the Parkstrip bonfire. The family moved into a house in Turnagain, where Sue lived the remainder of her life except occasional travels and sabbaticals to New Mexico and Maine. After her youngest child entered the first grade she taught and counseled at East High, worked in district administration and taught counseling part-time at UAA. She was instrumental in the start of the Career Education program and ultimately the King Career Center. She retired from the school district in 1986. Among her best Anchorage friends she counted Margo Cook, Alex Sisson, Virginia O'Malley, Less and Edith Wells, Dave and Deedee Hartman, Mark Ganapole, Dorothy Whitmore, Betty Wild, Pat Abney and Thelma Langdon. She was preceded in death by her brother, Gordon and his wife Helen Baker of Lancaster, Calif. She is survived by her children, Susan (Dockie) Lewis, and Kelly, G. William and Morgan (Elizabeth Edmands) Merritt; grandchildren, Emily Lewis, William Smith, Somer Webber and Lea, Grace, Julia and Karolyn Merritt; and niece and nephew, Ann and Jeff Baker of California.
Published in Anchorage Daily News on Sept. 15, 2015
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