Marie Ricks Merrill was born on June 9, 1931, in Rexburg, Idaho, to Ellis Kenneth Ricks and Juanita Martha Anderson Ricks. Marie was born at her Grandmother Marian Anderson’s home, and was the 4th of six children. Gordon was the oldest, followed by Norma, Barbara, Marie, Leon, and Sharla.
From a young age, Marie learned to work hard. As a small child, when she was too small to reach the top of a dresser, her job was to dust the lower parts of the dresser. Growing older, in addition to practicing the piano from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m. She thinned and hoed potatoes and sugar beets, carried armloads of firewood for the stoves, and herded cows. She learned not only the work ethic, but to do a good job. She remembered her mother saying, “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” In the summers, after a long hard day in the fields or at work, she enjoyed swimming in the Teton River and horseback riding.
Marie excelled in school and always wanted to be a teacher from when she was little. She graduated near the top of her class and was one of four to speak at graduation at Sugar-Salem High School, Idaho, in 1949. In the fall of 1949, she started at Ricks College. In 1951, with an associate’s degree, Marie took her first teaching job at Jefferson School in Hamilton, MT, teaching second grade. In 1955, Marie received her bachelor’s degree from BYU and got a job teaching second grade in Las Vegas.
On August 8, 1956, Marie married Leo Merrill in the Idaho Falls temple. Leo was stationed at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, in the U.S. Army, and Marie was soon teaching school on the base. Marie was an excellent teacher and often received letters from grateful parents, including from the wife of the colonel who was in charge of the base. When Leo was discharged from the army in 1958, Marie and Leo moved to Albany NY, where she taught fourth grade in the Rensselaer School District, and where they had their first two children. Marie and Leo later moved to Provo, Utah, where they had two more children.
Marie had a love of music, a love of learning, and a love of languages. One of the first purchases that Marie and Leo made after they were married was a piano. Marie loved to play the piano and played it almost every day throughout her life. In 1968, Marie completed her Master’s Degree in Counseling and Guidance from BYU. She could not attend graduation because she was in San Francisco (Stanford University Hospital) donating a kidney to her older sister Barbara. (Barbara always said that Marie had saved her life.) Throughout the rest of her life, she would continue to attend classes and in 1978 decided to study Polish (she had already studied German, French and Latin).
In 1969, with all of her children in school at Scera Park Elementary, Marie got a job teaching kindergarten. In 1971 Marie, Leo, and their family spent a year in Rochester, NY, to allow Leo to complete his Ph.D. in High Pressure Physics. The family used this time to visit historical and church sites in the area. Marie also taught school in Rochester, NY at an inner city school. Returning to Utah and moving to Orem, Marie started teaching 1st grade at Geneva Elementary, where she taught for 21 years retiring in 1993. An outstanding teacher, she received many awards, commendations, and recognitions, not to mention dozens and dozens of letters from appreciative parents.
Marie has always been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a young woman, she was the gold and green ball queen twice. She also earned her Golden Gleaner pin, which she said was roughly equivalent to an Eagle Scout award for boys. As an adult, she served in many callings of her church. In 1993, she was set apart as a special representative of the church and accompanied Leo to Ukraine for three years (1993-1996) when he was called as the first mission president of the Ukraine Donetsk Mission. After that mission, she and Leo spent two more years in Sweden, where Leo served as a counselor in the Stockholm Sweden temple presidency and Marie served as an assistant temple matron. She and Leo were especially useful in the temple because they could speak Russian.
After returning from their missions, Marie served for eleven years as an ordinance worker at the Mt. Timpanogos Temple and four years as a switchboard operator at the Provo Temple. She and Leo also served for seven years at the Family History Center in Orem as Family History consultants and served for a year as employment specialists at an Employment Center in Provo. Up until 2020, Marie served as relief society pianist in her ward. Marie also served as a volunteer at the Scera Theater and shell for 17 years.
Marie loved the outdoors. She always maintained a garden wherever she lived and enjoyed growing fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Marie has also loved to travel. In addition to traveling throughout the U.S., she has visited Japan, Hawaii (five times), Israel (twice), and Europe (many times). However, Marie’s highest priority throughout her life has been her family. She has strived to be her family's best wife, mother, and grandmother. As a wife, she was always supportive of her husband, and even saved Leo’s life after he caught himself on fire burning leaves in 2015. Her children and grandchildren have many fond memories of Easter-Egg hunts, 4th of July Parties, leaf parties, Halloween parties, reading, baseball, and other games at her house. As a school teacher, Marie acquired an extensive collection of children’s books. From her book collection, she has given her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren hundreds of books for them to read.
She is survived by her husband of 66 years, Leo, three sons; Dave (Nanette), Douglas (Lisa), and Robert (Katreena), one daughter, Lorraine, and her sister Sharla (Max). Nineteen grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren also survive her. She will be remembered as being loving, giving, FUN, dependable, patient in suffering, and faithful. We will greatly miss her, but know that we will see her again in a better place.
Funeral Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 3, 2023, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Chapel on 700 East 445 South, Orem, Utah. A viewing for family and friends will be held from 9:30-10:30 a.m. prior to the services at the church. Burial will be in the Orem City Cemetery.
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