February 14, 1918-August 25, 2019
Gertrude Elizabeth Horsch Merrill was born Feb. 14, 1918, to German immigrants, Rudolph and Lisel (nee Rullman) Horsch, in a farmhouse near Aberdeen in southern Idaho. It was what she called “a waste-howling wilderness,” citing a verse in Deuteronomy.
The third of five children, English was her second language. German was spoken exclusively in the home — her parents had scarcely been in the United States for six years.
She was graduated from Aberdeen High School in 1936, and shortly thereafter left for Los Angeles to attend BIOLA, pursuing studies in Bible and Christian education. It was there that she met Richard Merrill. She later followed him to Alberta, Canada, where he was enrolled in biblical studies, and they were married in 1943. She quickly moved into the role that would identify her for many years: Pastor’s wife. In this role, she was president of Women’s Prayer Fellowships, ran Sunday schools, organized Vacation Bible Schools, taught Sunday school, played the piano, entertained parishioners at home, and more. She played this role in a variety of locations in Western Canada, including Saskatoon, Victoria and Regina for more than ten years, before returning to the states in 1956.
Late in life, she wrote a brief history of her life called “Armchair Memories” in which she recounted her family’s history and the challenges and blessings God had brought her way over the years. She reflected fondly about family life on the sagebrush prairies of Idaho, and her relationship with her four siblings, Walter, Rudy, Paula and Albert, all deceased.
Although born as Gertrude, she was always known as Elizabeth, or “Betty.” She was a woman of a mighty and powerful faith, and always expressed gratitude for even the smallest blessing that came her way. Her knowledge of the Bible was encyclopedic, and she could recite chapter and verse of countless passages from Genesis to Revelation. At the age of 96, she recited Bible verses beginning with every letter of the alphabet, a recorded performance that is still live on YouTube.
The last 13 years of her life were spent at Lancaster Village in Salem, OR, where she was lovingly attended by the staff. She enjoyed receiving regular visitors Diane Colbath, Linda Hammer, Yvonne Thiessen and Vicky Crawford. She did not fear death, for she knew that when she drew her last breath, she would be escorted by the angels into the presence of her Lord. And those who knew her, also know that the first words she heard were “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your reward.”
She is survived by two children, Timothy (Jeannie) Merrill of Shanghai, China; and Lois (Keith) Meerdink of Salem, OR. She had five grandchildren, Danielle Goodwin, Jonathan Merrill, Anita Chiddix, Deborah Merrill and Katie Dwyer. She had nine great-grandchildren: Alexander Donahue, Hannah Merrill, Destiny Donahue, Lydia Merrill, Makenna Donahue, Wesley Merrill, Acacia Merrill, Asher Chiddix and Alexa Chiddix. She had two great-great-grandchildren: Eva Goodwin and Lily Goodwin.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
A Celebration of Life was held at First Mennonite Church, 381 E. Washington Avenue, Aberdeen, ID, on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 11 a.m.
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