Merle E. Wilson passed away on Monday, February 17th, 2020 at the Neodesha Care and Rehabilitation Center. A Celebration of Life Service will be held Monday, February 24th at 10:00am at the Grace Memorial United Methodist Church, 109 South 13th Street, Independence, KS. Visitation will be held at Potts Chapel, Sunday, February 23rd, 4:00-7:00pm. Burial will follow at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Merle was born on February 1, 1918, in the Farm Ridge are near Elk City, Kansas. He was the oldest child of Horace and Ruth (Goodwin) Wilson. He grew up in Farm Ridge and graduated form the Elk City High School in 1936. Following graduation, he began farming near his parents.
In 1943, Merle entered the 8th Air Force and was stationed in Sudbury, England, about 30 minutes from London for the remainder of the war. He served as a Crew Chief on B17’s and B24’s. He enjoyed that time very much and was proud of his work and the safety of the planes he crewed. In 1946, he was honorably discharged and returned home to Kansas.
On June 21st, 1946, Merle married Grace Wells Gilliland. They moved to a farm north of Independence. Merle was employed by Ford Tractor Company and Grace by Kansas Gas & Electric Company. After a few years, he began farming on a fulltime basis and continued for the rest of his life, being “semi-retired” at the age of 98 years old. He also did crop farming, raised Charolais and Hereford/angus mixed cattle and raised horses beginning with his beloved “Sonny”. Merle just recently celebrated his 102nd birthday.
Merle and Grace were very active members of the community. They belonged to several Masonic groups and traveled around the state to attend meetings. Merle was a 50-year member of the Fortitude Lodge, No.107, York Rite and Eva Chapter #18 Order of the Eastern Star. He made many lifelong friends through these groups. He served many years as Worthy Patron of the Eva Chapter #18, was a state committee member and was Grand Guard at State Grand Chapter.
He loved horses and horseback riding and was over the years an active member of the Independence Saddle Club, Trail Riders Club, Independence Bar W and the South East Kansas Mounted Posse. He organized and rode in drill teams with the Independence Trail Riders and South East Kansas Mounted Posse, serving many years as drill master with both groups. These groups traveled to Kansas City to ride at the American Royal, to the International Roundup Clubs in Pawhuska, OK, and other rodeos and horse shows around the state. Merle was well known at the Coffeyville Fair and Rodeo and made a point to be there every year to ride in the parade and grand entries for every show. He also attended all the performances.
Merle was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Grace, his parents: Horace and Ruth Wilson, two brothers: Keith “Shorty” and Dean Wilson, sister Betty.
Those left to cherish his memory are his daughter Barbara (Jack) Lasater, two grandchildren: Mark (Jennifer) and Sheri (John) Garris, great-grandchildren: Rich and Jake Garris, Sarah Lasater all from Independence, sister-in-law Dorothy Wilson of Independence, nephew Larry Landis of Manheim, Pennsylvania, niece Gayle Crump and nephew Mike Wilson of Wichita, two nieces: Betty Wilson and Kim Buster of Neodesha, numerous cousins and many lifelong friends. He will be greatly missed by all.
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