Sterling resident Leon Nicholas Merkes, 93, died Friday, Apr. 6, 2018, peacefully at home in his recliner with his wife and family at his side. A mass of resurrection was held on Monday, April 9, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Soldotna, with Father Roger officiating. A Celebration of Life followed at the Sterling Community Center. Interment of ashes will be at a later date at Soldotna Community Memorial Park.
Leon was born May 1, 1924 in Stratford, Wisconsin to Michael and Marie (Hennes) Merkes. His father died when he was 2 years old and he was raised by his mother & step-father, Charles Kaiser. He married Grace Ellen Brzezinski in Cassel, Wisconsin in 1956 and they drove the Alcan (a dirt road) to Alaska for their honeymoon and then lived here in the North for the rest of his long life. He was educated in a small white school house in Stratford to the 8th grade when he started working and didn’t quit until his second retirement at age 88. After joining the Teamsters Union and living in Anchorage for 10 years, Leon homesteaded in Sterling and continued to grow his family. Each year, Leon and Grace would go to Anchorage for supplies and to have a baby until they had 7 and then were blessed with 1 more after Soldotna had a hospital. Leon worked hard, building and maintaining roads for most of his life, but he always found time to sit in church on Sunday with his family where they took up an entire pew.
Leon knew a few good jokes and everyone who knew him, knew these jokes too. He would share his contagious laughter and jokes with anyone, but when it came time for a serious life event, or someone needed help, he was a rock-solid friend, spouse, and father. He loved to play pinochle with his friends and cribbage with his grandkids. He renovated old cars and drove them in parades, rode jet-ski and snow-machines for fun and later in life enjoyed “prime chair-time” watching the Green Bay Packers football games. He loved spending time with his family and his passing leaves a huge void in our hearts, but his loud laughter & voice, impeccable work ethic, and strength of character lives on in his kids and grandkids.
Leon was preceded in death by his parents, siblings, Helen, Raymond and Francis Merkes, and David Kaiser, grandchildren, Sarah Merkes and Nathan Waller.
Survived by his wife, Grace E. Merkes; children, Patty E. Wisel (John), Vonnie M. Pierce (Charlie), Dennis R. Merkes (Anita), Renee R. Lindow (Bill), Kenny J. Merkes (Renee), Linda G. Winkler (Tom), Greg F. Merkes (Dawn), Melissa T. Daugherty (Mick), 26 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Sterling Community Center at PO Box 15, Sterling, Alaska 99672.
Leon, Dad, Daddy, Grampa, Grampy, Papa, G’pa, Old Fart, we will miss you beyond words. You built the roads we tread on, here on earth, and now you are on God’s road to heaven.
Arrangements were by Peninsula Memorial Chapel in Kenai.