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Obituary: Walter W. "Merk" Merkel, Columbus

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Mr. Walter W. "Merk" Merkel, 87, passed away at Columbus Regional Hospital on January 28, 2013. Mr. Merkel, or “Merk,” as he was known by his family and friends, was born in Reading, PA. His family moved to Johnstown, PA, during his high school years. Because of World War II, Merk never graduated from high school. He was selected during his high school senior year to join the U.S. Navy’s V-12 Officer Training Program. He was sent to Lafayette College in Easton, PA, and subsequently to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering and received his officer’s commission. He was on active duty in both World War II and the Korean War.

Mr. Merkel worked for the Pennsylvania Electric Company in Johnstown, PA, after WW II. He was recalled to active duty in 1951 and assigned as a Submarine Shipbuilding Superintendent at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. LTJG Merkel served with distinction and was transferred to Panama City, FL, in 1953. Upon discharge from the U.S. Navy, Merk moved his family to Lakeland where he and his wife resided for 54 years. Upon arrival in Lakeland, he joined W.R. Grace’s phosphate mining and processing operations as an electrical engineer and was subsequently promoted to maintenance superintendent. Merk changed jobs in 1959 and became a sales engineer for Tampa Armature Works, an electrical and mechanical equipment distributor. He ultimately worked his way up in the company being promoted to Vice President of Sales and Service. In 1975, Mr. Merkel was asked to join Baker-Hughes International as their VP of World Wide Phosphate Operations. For the next 17 years he traveled internationally, visiting new phosphate operations in Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia and other Pacific Rim areas. At the age of 67, Mr. Merkel retired but continued to consult for a number of years. In 2008 he and wife Elaine moved from Lakeland, FL, to Columbus, IN, to be closer to family.

A community minded individual, Merk was active in both church and civic affairs. He was a member of All Saints Episcopal Church where he held several leadership positions as a Vestry member, including Senior Warden. He was a Sub Deacon and Lay Eucharistic Minister. Mr. Merkel was a charter member of Citrus Center Kiwanis, a member of the Lakeland Yacht Club, AIME, and served on the Board of Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE). He was a Mater Mason and Shriner. He loved to travel with his wife Elaine, driving and cruising through the British Isles and Europe. He was particularly fond of Sweden which he visited before and after retirement. After retirement Merk and Elaine spent the next 20 years enjoying spring, summer, and early fall at their lake house in the mountains at Hiawassee, GA.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Elaine Tompkins Merkel; sons, Rick (Brenda), Columbus, IN, and Tom (Mickey), Atlanta, GA; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned on Tuesday, February 5, at 1 p.m. at Four Seasons Retirement Center Chapel with Chaplain Phyllis Hawkins officiating. In lieu of flowers and/or donations, the family requests you remember Merk with a random act of kindness.

Online condolences may be sent to the Merkel family at


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