Jan. 20, 1914 - May 31, 2007
In early January of 1914, a young couple in Alda, Oklahoma, Amber and Viola Gay were excitedly waiting for the birth of their first child. On January 20 a little girl was born, all healthy and with the necessary number of fingers, toes, and other appendages. Amber and Viola named their little girl Evelyn, and a happy family life was begun. After a short time Amber was offered a new job, and the little family moved to Oklahoma City. There Evelyn grew up and developed into a very bright and lovely young lady. She went through her high school years and then enrolled in Oklahoma Wesleyan to pursue her undergraduate courses.
As Evelyn had grown up, she was surrounded by every possible constructive influence, including her spiritual life. In Oklahoma Wesleyan, a Methodist College, she became aware of a growing desire to serve God with her life. To pursue that goal she later enrolled in Scarrett College in Nashville, Tennessee where she achieved full certification in Christian Education.
Completing her work and with highest recommendation from Scarrett College, she was chosen to work with Dr. Clovis Chapel in the Galloway Memorial Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. An outstanding preacher in his day, Dr. Chapel was much in demand and chose to publish his sermons rather than be away from his own pulpit so frequently. Once again, Evelyn Gay had made her mark and was invited to be Dr. Chapel’s personal assistant. In this capacity, she was instrumental in the publication of many of his books of sermons. When he was later appointed to serve the First Methodist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, he persuaded Evelyn to move with him. As they were settling in the new work, a young man from Nebraska graduated from The Theological School at SMU in Dallas. He, Merlin Merrill, was appointed to be the Associate Pastor in First Methodist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas. The Chairman of the Board was introducing the new staff member around and came to Evelyn and Merlin. After identifying each of them to the other, he said with a wry smile, “I suggest that you two young people learn to cooperate.” They did, and a year later they were married and served God together for the next fifty-five years. Now, that is cooperation!
In January 1947, the Merrills transferred to the Louisiana Conference and were appointed to Cotton Valley. In the next four years, their “cooperation” continued and resulted in church and family growth, with the birth of their son, Lynn Walter Merrill. In 1951 they were appointed to serve the Canal Street Church in New Orleans and from there to First Church in Mansfield, First Church in Minden, University Church in Lake Charles, Lafayette District Superintendent and Trinity in Ruston. In each case, Evelyn carried her share of responsibility in the Church, District or parsonage. When Merlin was away on mission work in Alaska, Brazil or Peru, Evelyn cared for the congregation at home and saw that Church business was executed properly and promptly. On other occasions she accompanied Merlin to a World Methodist Conference in Honolulu and on a five-week pulpit swap with a British Methodist minister in Abingdon, England.
Two of the highlights of her life were Merlin’s election to the Board of Trustees of Centenary College and his subsequent honor with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Centenary College, and the point when her son achieved his PhD degree in the School of Business of Louisiana Tech University. Her own thirst for knowledge and experience of growth continued into the last days of her life. After Merlin’s death her failing health indicated a need to be in an assisted living environment, and she chose to follow that need. Even there she continued to lead groups of her neighbors in discussions, book reviews and Bible study. When one would go to visit her, there would almost always be a stack of three or four books on her bed which no doubt she intended to read every one. Her warm smile and infectious laugh blessed all who came into her presence.
On May 31, 2007, Evelyn rejoined Merlin before God, and we can be certain of the Father’s deep joy is seeing two of His most faithful children together again at home with Him. God bless you, my dear friends.
Douglas L. McGuire