LORRAINE B. MERRILL
September 4, 1932 - November 22, 2020
I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
As a child during the Great Depression, Lorraine’s family had little, yet no one could have embraced life more. In summer, you could find her underneath the Atlantic City boardwalk with her kid brother, scouring the sand for dropped coins. The goal was eleven cents, which would buy you a seat in the movie theatre. As soon as the lights went down and the opening credits began to roll, she could escape any fear and despair and be transported to other worlds of adventure, mystery, and romance. A love of literature and theatre would likewise fill her mind and spirit with limitless possibilities. All she had to do was imagine.
These moments galvanized her belief that one’s life is not preordained. It’s not about what life imposes upon you, but rather, your ability to actually compose your own life. You can cultivate it like a gardener, sculpt it like an artist. From the beginning, she understood the power of imagination. And she imbued her every endeavor with creativity.
Her journey hit full stride when Frank Merrill stepped into her life. They were both students at the College of Wooster and met for the first time sitting next to one another on a bus ride back East. Nine hours later, the bus reached its destination and they too had reached a destination of sorts; they had fallen in love.
There was a shared intellect and a creative spirit made manifest through talents and tastes that dovetailed unerringly. They raised four children (Lee, Rusty, Beth, and Tom). They were professional educators. They fully restored a historic century home, their creative collaborations never slowed. This included writing 3 full-length musicals under commission by the Pennsylvania State University Council of the Arts for production. Frank was her anchor, and she was his muse. His devotion to her happiness was all encompassing. They were married for 62 years before Frank’s passing in 2017.
When it came to writing, Lorraine possessed a natural talent propelled by a driving passion. She excelled whether it was her creative writing as a poet, lyricist, greeting card writer and playwright or the incisive power she displayed in her journalism as a theatre critic and columnist. It was this, coupled with her love of teaching that led to the creation of Power of the Pen, a program that has impacted hundreds of thousands of young writers for over thirty years. In many ways, it was an echo from her childhood when she first discovered the transformational power of creative expression. It was a way to whisper in the ear of a child: ‘Go ahead, all you have to do is imagine.’
Power of the Pen is only one example of Lorraine’s ability to see potential, and use innovative approaches and unwavering energy to unlock that potential to the benefit of others. Additional accomplishments include:
Manager of the Radio Reading Service for the Blind, Cleveland Society for the Blind. She was responsible for launching and coordinating all aspects related to programming and broadcasting of programs to the blind and physically handicapped.
Director of Public Relations and Development, Cleveland Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society She originated and launched the nationwide development of the MS Readathon which continues to raise more than $25 million annually for research and support systems for MS victims.
As an OHSSL and NFL speech and debate coach, she led members of the Revere High School team in Bath, Ohio to regional, state, and national titles.
Founder, Washington Community Theatre (1970) and the Arts Council of Washington County (1971) in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Yet, clearly, Power of the Pen was her most celebrated creation, garnering incredible attention and support; Lorraine also received the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Award (State and US Departments of Education) 1988-89, Commendation from the Governor of Ohio in 1992, Outstanding Woman of Summit County Award in 2006, and the Rotary International Award for Outstanding Educational Achievement.
As a proud progressive and an educational visionary, her tenacity and intensity could be breathtaking. She was a true force of nature, with all the noble and ignoble traits that can entail. Her uncompromising fervor could be exhausting; her expectations could be infuriating. But the scope and the genuine purity of her accomplishments rose above all of that and touched more people than she could ever know. She never grew weary of her role as a teacher. For Lorraine, being a teacher was a way to touch a future that she would never see. In this way, her life will continue to unfold for generations to come. And for that we are grateful.
In addition to her children and their spouses Lee (David) Hapner, Rusty Merrill, Beth (Scott) Dixon, and Tom Merrill, Lorraine is survived by her grandchildren: Michael Hapner, Emsie (Joe) Saunders; Mollie (Jeff) Driscoll; Noah (Taylor Hallowell) Dixon, and Sarah (Mikey Bridge) Dixon; Tyler and Elise Cranston-Merrill; Maggie (Derek) Merrill-Parham; and Abbey Merrill; five great grandchildren; a much-loved brother, Tom Margitan; and brother-in-law, John Merrill. Her family deeply mourns her loss.
The family wishes to thank dear friends Mary and Bill Anderson, Amy Berner (Hospice), and the staff at Wooded Glen Health Care for their unwavering commitment to her health and happiness.
An endowment fund has been established in memory of Frank and Lorraine Merrill to support young writers participating in Power of the Pen. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Power of the Pen Founders’ Award at the Springfield Foundation at 333 N Limestone Street, Suite 201, Springfield, Ohio 45503.