Russell Burwin "Bur" Merriman, 98, of Fillmore, Illinois, passed away Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at 11 A.M. surrounded by his family at home, in Fillmore, IL.
Private family graveside service and interment, with military rites, will be held at 10:00 A.M., Monday, June 22, 2020, at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Ramsey, IL, with Father Scott Snider, officiating. Memorials: St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Ramsey, IL and/or Donors Choice. Miller Funeral Home, Ramsey, IL, is in charge of arrangements. Online memories and condolences may be shared with the family at www.millerfh.net.
On June 16, 2020, Russell “Burwin” Merriman joined his sweetheart Helen, his parents, an infant sister (Norma) and brother (“Ward”) in Heaven. Born on January 25, 1922, to John and Ada (Landers) Merriman, Burwin grew up in Fillmore with his brother Ward. Bur grew from a toe-headed tot to a strapping young man, who like so many, answered the call of his nation to serve in World War II. Burwin left Fillmore, attending basic training at Fort Campbell, KY and boarded a train to California. From there he made his way to the Pacific Theatre, serving as a tank commander in the 44th Tank Battalion. Despite the horrors of war, which he rarely talked about, Burwin formed lasting friendships that he maintained by travelling around the country attending “army reunions” for decades.
When he returned to Fillmore, a girl from Ramsey caught his eye. He offered Helen and a friend a ride to the roller rink in Vandalia…and the rest, as they say is history. But what would a love story for the ages be without a plot twist? After Helen returned from a cross-country trip with her teacher college classmates, Burwin, with his mother in tow, went to pick her up from Charleston, stopping in Pana to purchase an engagement ring. The new-world -traveler Helen wasn’t sure she was ready to settle down, but her hesitance did not deter Burwin. Two proposals later (maybe three, but who’s counting?), Helen said Yes! And with their wedding on May 8, 1948, so began an epic romance spanning seven decades full of tush pats and hand kisses.
Two years later they were blessed with a daughter, Brenda, followed by a son, Larry, after two more years. Cathy, arriving six years after her brother must have been a delight, since she was shortly joined by Carol and twins(!) Mark and Steve within the following years. That was enough to have Helen considering Burwin sleeping in the barn.
While building this beautiful family, Burwin was also working on a different calling – farming. Burwin took great pride in being a farmer. He farmed nearly 500 acres around Fillmore and Ramsey, raised pigs, and had feeder cattle on the north edge of Fillmore. He was a purveyor of International Harvester tractors, though he never scolded his great grandson’s love of all things John Deere. He was a long-standing member of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, eventually serving as its President. Even in retirement, Burwin used his love of neighbor and love of farming to serve the greater good. After farmers in the region were facing critically difficult times with tragic results, Burwin came out of retirement to serve as Montgomery County’s first ever “farm counselor.” He established a role within the County mental health department to serve distressed farming families – counseling other farmers, providing support and guidance, and connecting folks to resources they may not have known to access. In dark times, Burwin was the light that so many local families needed. His work undoubtedly saved lives.
Burwin also found light in the world through his faith in Jesus. Burwin was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ramsey, IL from the day of his wedding (when he also received the other sacraments of initiation) until his passing. Burwin loved his faith. He recalled being on the long ship ride across the Pacific, one scared young man among so many, but recognizing the peace that “the Catholic boys” had while saying Mass on the deck of this huge warship. “Whatever they had, [he] wanted it.” Until the day he went to Heaven, Sunday Mass was a highlight of his week, trading in his daily uniform of bib overalls for a suit, tie, and fedora. Mass was as much about fellowship as the liturgy.
It Didn't take a scheduled event for Burwin to find fellowship. Rarely did a day go by when folks didn’t find their way to the shed for repairs and tales. A trip to the elevator to check things out was always a possibility. Burwin was a good friend and neighbor, a man who never met a stranger and always went out of his way to make a child feel special.
Second only to his faith, Burwin cherished his family. He was quick to point out, “We have a great family. We have such a GREAT family.” Those six blue-eyed kids each found their forever love. Burwin loved his sons- and daughters-in-law like his own and would tell anyone who would listen. In time, those loving couples gave Burwin and Helen 11 grandchildren, who, recognizing how much their grandpa loved little kids, doubled down, adding 23 great-grandchildren to the mix. Nothing made him happier than being surrounded by all that family – whether it was sharing Thanksgiving with the other half of the Merriman’s, Easter dinner in the church basement, Christmas gatherings, reunions at Fillmore Lake, birthday parties, or just a drop-in visit – even if he couldn’t make it through the blessing without breaking up. In his later years, nothing quite brought a smile to his face like the annual wiener roast, complete with hay ride! From the moment it was over, Burwin was looking forward to the following year and was sure to remind everyone how much he wanted them to come.
On the morning of June 16th, surrounded by family, Burwin received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites. As the priest commended him to God and entrusted him to the Lord, imploring holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints to come to meet him as he went forth from this life, Burwin took his last breath. He surely did see his Redeemer face to face and will enjoy the vision of God for ever.
Burwin joins in Heaven Helen, who he dearly missed, along with his parents, sister, brother, and a granddaughter and great grandbabies he never met on Earth. Celebrating his life and mourning their loss are his Children – Brenda and Mike Cline, Joliet, MT, Larry and Anita Merriman, Ramsey, IL, Cathy and Brent Manning, Pawnee, IL, Carol and Danny Eickhoff, Hillsboro, IL, Steve and Lisa Merriman, Vandalia, IL, and Mark and Jan Merriman, Fillmore, IL; his Grandchildren (great and otherwise) Chris and Tammy Cline, Gillette, WY, with Dallas, Ashlynn, and Abrenna; Lorri and Josh Gregor, Billings, MT, with Hunter and Lexi; Kara Merriman, Haw River, NC, with Ben and Delaney; Sarah and John Kerley, Springfield, IL, with Samantha and Jack; Erin and Jeb Williamson, Broken Arrow, OK, with Braden and Michaela; Cory and Emily Merriman, Bloomington, IL, with Emmett, Alana, and Daisy; Kurt and Angie Merriman, Oakville, MO, with Colton and Ashlyn; Amy and Brandon Potthoff, New Berlin, IL, with Andrew and Daniel; Jessica and Matt Saey, Willowbrook, IL, with Lucy; Natalie and Nathan Grider, Springfield, IL, with Hadley and Caroline; Michael and Stephanie, Cline, Windsor, IL with Josh and Kiersten, Katie, and Matt; and also very special to his heart Autumn (Tanner and Attlee) and Auni Wollin.
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