Merle Montana Eastman, a life-long resident of Concord, passed away at Harris Hill Center Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the age of 92. The son of Walter and Gertrude Eastman, Merle was born in Alder, Montana in 1921. When he was 4 years old, the family relocated to New Hampshire.
Merle graduated from Concord High School in 1939 and went on to major in Economics at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. After his graduation from Bates in 1943, Merle entered the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1946 he was commissioned as a Naval Aviator. He was stationed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he served as leader of a torpedo bomber squadron.
Merle began his career at Aetna Life Insurance Company as Assistant Manager of Group Insurance for New Hampshire and Vermont. He became a licensed insurance broker for all insurance lines, including life, accident and health. In 1951 he was hired as Assistant Enrollment Director at Blue Cross Blue Shield, and in 1963 he was appointed Director of Underwriting for New Hampshire and Vermont. He remained in this position until his retirement in 1985.
Merle's passion in life was his love of Big Band and Dixieland music. He was an accomplished musician, playing both clarinet and alto sax. In college he was a member of the Bates Bobcats Swing Band, and in later years he played lead alto sax in the Freese Bros. Big Band, where he was frequently a featured soloist. For over 30 years Merle and some of the area's best musicians held Dixieland jam sessions at his home on Mountain Road. Throughout the years, not only did Merle provide his family and friends with entertainment in terms of his musical talents, but also with his dry and witty sense of humor.
Merle is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth; as well as his two daughters, Linda Eastman of Concord and Jane Dobson and her husband, Bill, of Owls Head, Maine. Other family members include his granddaughter, Kirsten, also of Owls Head; his grandson, Justin, and his wife, Amanda, of Rochester; and his nephews and their wives, Bob and Kathy Semales, Rick and Dorian Semales, Terry and Susan Lichty, Scott and Linda Lichty and Kevin Lichty.
Merle is predeceased by his sister, Marilyn Lichty and her husband, Don; as well as his nephew, Bill Semales, of Cherry Hill, N.J.
A celebration of Merle's life will take place on Saturday, April 26, at 2 p.m. at the Bennett Funeral Home in Concord. Visiting hours will be one hour prior to the service.
Private interment will take place at a later date.
The family would like to express their gratitude and appreciation for the exceptional and compassionate care that Merle received from Harris Hill Center, the Concord Regional VNA and Hospice VNA.
The Bennett Funeral Home of Concord is in charge of the arrangements. Messages of condolences may be offered at bennettfuneral.com
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Published by Concord Monitor on Apr. 9, 2014.