Merlin Anderson

Merlin W. "Andy" Anderson, age 87, of Colorado Springs, passed away on August 7, 2011. He was born on November 23, 1923 in Newman Grove, Nebraska, a son of the late, Dan and Pearl Anderson.

He was also preceded in death by one brother, Lowell, in 2004. He is survived by his wife of almost 33 years, Marge, and his large, extended family, his two sons, Jim and his wife, Jan Anderson of Charlotte, North Carolina, and John Anderson of Palos Park, Illinois, his grandsons, Charles Daniel Anderson of Washington, DC and John Scott Anderson of Philadelphia mourn his passing. In addition to his immediate family, he was loved and will be truly missed by his wife, Marge's daughter, Jeri Wilson and her husband Terry of New Lenox, Illinois, and granddaughters, Colleen and Kaylee, a daughter, Karen O'Kleshen of Chicago, Illinois. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Betty Anderson of Palos Park, Illinois and her children, Mark Daniel Anderson of Chicago and Debi Anderson Hodges of Frisco, Texas. We will all mourn his passing.

Merlin grew up on a family farm until it was lost in the Great Depression, when his family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. There he excelled in school and left for the University of Nebraska at age 16. His ROTC unit was called up in 1943 and Merlin tested so well he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point. His year group was given a year of preparatory work at Amherst College before entering West Point. While at West Point, Merlin excelled academically and finished 7th in the Class of 1947, a legendary class that included such luminaries as the Heisman Trophy winners, Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard as well as future statesmen, Brent Scowcroft and Alexander Haig.

Upon graduation, Merlin was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the US Army Corps of Engineers. He met and married his first wife, Margaret Boyle of Sheepshead Bay, New York and they were happily together until cancer took her life in April of 1972. She bore their two boys, Jim and John.

As a career military officer, Merlin lived an interesting and varied life serving his country. He was a combat engineer in Korea, where he earned a Bronze Star for bravery under fire. The military sent him to the University of Illinois to get an advanced degree in engineering in 1954. He then worked on the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway project. He also taught military history and psychology at West Point for three years. The Army sent him to the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas for a year and then sent the family to Izmir, Turkey, where Merlin was attached to NATO.

In 1963, the family returned to the US, where Merlin was given command of the First Engineer Battalion of the First Infantry Division (the "Big Red One") at Fort Riley, Kansas. The next tour was as part of the Pentagon, where Merlin was in the Office of the Joint Chief of Staff (OJCS). For his work there, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was involved in planning the redeployment of US forces from France, when France exited NATO. He was sent for advanced training at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania before returning to the Pentagon in the late '60s.

At his point, his wife Marge became ill with cancer and he made the choice to exit the fast-track military career to care for her. After her untimely death in 1972, Merlin and his son John moved to Homewood, IL to be near his brother's family. It was there that he retired from the US Army after 29 years of service.

Good fortune smiled upon him when he met Marge O'Kleshen in 1977 and they were married in September 1978. They journeyed all over the country looking at places to live and decided on Colorado Springs, where they moved in 1981. Merlin was truly blessed to find such a supportive and loving wife. Merlin loved Colorado and became quite involved with his local church, ushering and helping plan the columbarium at the church. He also loved hiking the many majestic mountains of his adopted state and successfully ascended each of the 14,000 peaks in the state. "A life well led."

Published in The Colorado Springs Gazette on August 11, 2011