Merrell, Charles Stanley
Charles Stanley Merrell, “Stan” died peacefully and suddenly at the age of 99 on September 8, 2021 . He was a native of Wyoming, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati) born on June 4, 1922 . His paternal grandmother’s family were among the Quaker settlers and founders of Nantucket Island in 1659. His great-great- grandfather started the William S. Merrell Pharmaceutical Company in 1828 for which his father was employed. As a child, he enjoyed time living with his grandparents while his parents were traveling for the company. He also spent time living in Chicago, Denver, and Florida. Just before entering the ninth grade, his parents settled in Berkeley, California. There he attended Berkeley High School and later UC Berkeley where he majored in Economics. On December 7th, 1942, he heard the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing while standing at a sandwich shop. (He had been studying for a test and left to grab some lunch). Soon after, his college education was halted as he and his brother went to enlist in the army. His brother, Fred, was taken immediately, but Stanley was rejected as 4-F for only weighing 117 pounds. A month later, “Uncle Sam” reconsidered and drafted him. Prior to being sent overseas, he was plucked out of his unit (due to his aptitude) and selected to attend an engineering program at Santa Clara University. There he would stay until the Army realized they needed these guys as fighting men. He shipped over to Cherbourg, France in December 1944. Stan was part of General George Patton’s Third Army in the 11th Armored Division. For more than six months he was in an M-7 tank, sleeping in the snow while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. As the war was ending, the 11th Armored was part of the liberation of Mauthausen Concentration Camp. On August 6th he was on a ship in New York harbor where he was to enjoy a month’s leave before being sent to fight the Japanese. That day Hiroshima was bombed and Stan was discharged shortly after. Always very proud to have served in the war, he, like others of his generation, kept his memories silent for many years.
Stan returned to UC Berkeley to finish his degree. His college experience included time in the same apartment with actors’ Gregory Peck and Barry Nelson. Stan excelled in Biology and won an annual award, (although not a biology major) and was the youngest person ever to be Editor of the UC newspaper. After college, Stan worked as an editor for the San Francisco Chronicle alongside the famous photographer, Joe Rosenthal, (Iwo Jima photo fame) and played poker with Jay Ward (Rocky and his Friends) while having Pierre Salinger (former Press Secretary) work under him. For a short time, he became the President of a small Business College.
Stan was living and working in San Francisco in 1950-51 when he met, LaVonne Whittington Castle. (Bonnie), a beautiful divorcee with two sons, Douglas and Donald. When she finally agreed to go out with him, their dates routinely included him taking Bonnie and her boys to Nathan’s hot dogs for dinner and then to a movie. He proposed marriage on Halloween and they married on November 29th 1952. In 1953 they relocated the family to Palo Alto, California which at the time, other than Stanford, had many undeveloped areas. There were dairy cattle that would wander into backyards and you could see Moffett Field from miles away. Bonnie had to convince Stan that they could manage a $9,000 mortgage, so they put down their $25 deposit and moved in. In February 1954, their daughter, Nancy Lynn was born. Bonnie and Stan enjoyed living in Palo Alto, but upon them both retiring in 1978, they moved to Pioneer, California. There they lived until 1997 when it became necessary to move closer to their daughter’s family in Dallas due to Bonnie’s battle with Parkinson’s. They were married for 47 years until Bonnie’s death in 2000.
Stan would always say he had a “blessed life.” He had a strong faith in God and firmly believed in a “divine providence.” He enjoyed so many years of just being with Bonnie and his family. Never one to put much importance on ambitious career choices, Stan was always more concerned about being there for his wife and kids. He also invited his father to move into their home when he became widowed.
Stan was a “Renaissance Man” of the first order. He loved classical music (especially, opera), but also loved country-western, popular music and knew every lyric that Gilbert and Sullivan ever wrote. His cross-stitch needlework was prolific and legendary. He had a beautiful natural singing voice. He always had a historical and political book he was reading. Stan knew his way around a kitchen and could set a fabulous table. He could build or fix just about anything and could have worked as a carpenter. He knew all the baseball stats of his day and loved to watch golf. He jogged every morning until well into his 60’s and loved a scotch and vermouth every day at 5:00. When Nancy was in school, he was active in the PTA and never missed seeing his kid’s sports or other activities. He was elected the President of his Square Dance Club and would sometimes be a guest caller. Stan was known for his sharp wit and wicked sense of humor. He and Bonnie endlessly entertained their friends and family and made their home a place full of love and warmth.
During his almost hundred years on earth, Stan witnessed so many historic events. He was at the opening day of the Golden Gate Bridge, and saw Amelia Ehrhart take off on the last leg of her last voyage. He saw Jackie Robinson play three sports, but never baseball. He knew Red Pollard (Sea Biscuit jokey) and watched horse racing at Bay Meadows often times seated next to Eddie Anderson (“Rochester”). He lived through the Great Depression and survived World War II. Of course, life brought hard times, but Stan never complained about his troubles. He often said, “I’ve had a good life.”
Stan is now with his dear wife, Bonnie, his parents, his brother, his step-sons, and a multitude of family and friends that have gone before. He is happy and in the presence of our dear Lord. His is a life to be celebrated. But…he will be greatly missed. May he rest in Peace.
Services for Stan will be held on Friday, October 22nd. Burial and honors will be at 10:00 at the National Cemetery in Dallas and his memorial service with be at St. Francis Anglican Church, 3838 Walnut Hill Ln., Dallas, TX 75229 at 12:00 noon. In Liew of Flowers, please send donations to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) 4400 So. Lancaster Rd., Dallas, TX 75216 or visit their website.
It was such a nice pleasure to meet you, and what you had planned for my father just took my breath away. It was so special to hear you tell us how he would just come over to talk with you. I think it brought him much comfort. Tha you for putting that Air Force article of him on your website. I am going to have a replica made of the painting of his plane to give you. Thank you again for all you have done to honor our dad. Love, The Gillilands
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