Wesley Merriman

July 21, 1927 - July 21, 2017
Kalamazoo, MI



Monday, August 7, 2017
9:00 AM to 10:00 AM EDT
Westwood United Methodist Church
538 Nichols Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Web Site


Monday, August 7, 2017
10:00 AM EDT
Westwood United Methodist Church
538 Nichols Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Web Site


At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Westwood United Methodist Church Music Ministry
538 Nichols Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
(269) 344-7165
Web Site

Portage Senior Center
320 Library Lane
Portage, MI 49002
(269) 329-4555
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With a perpetual song in his heart, Wesley Delbert Merriman, Jr. lived a life of harmony and grace. With an artist’s eye, Wes naturally found the beauty in life and cherished each of his days. A loving husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Wes enjoyed a long life rich in relationships, music, and service. His greatest desires were to care for his family and to serve others. Revered by many, Wes will long be remembered in the hearts of those he loved.

On July 21, 1927, Wesley and Hope (Bertch) Merriman welcomed their son Wesley Delbert, Jr. into their hearts and home. Growing up in Kalamazoo, Wes attended Vine Street Elementary and Kalamazoo Central High School where he distinguished himself, earning a varsity letter on the swim team. Wes also enjoyed swimming at Woods Lake and the honor of being a big brother to Bertch who was four years younger.

From the very start, Wes’ natural artistic talents were apparent in his love of music and skillful drawings. Following his passions, Wes took every art class he could and became an accomplished illustrator. In his spare time, he taught himself wood carving, and learned to play the harmonica. Later in life he acquired a “guitar-strung” six string banjo and a ukulele, both of which he taught himself to play.

Even before graduating Wes had his first experience in the military, enlisting in the Michigan Troops with his father at the age of fifteen. Just days after graduating high school, Wes enlisted in the US Navy. During his year of active duty near the end of World War II, Wes proudly served his country as a Transport Specialist and Airman 3rd Class. As a loadmaster for the Navy version of the DC3 cargo plane he developed such a good reputation that when pilots were told Wes had managed the loading, they took off with no further questions asked.

After his service in the Navy, Wes enrolled in commercial art courses at Western Michigan College. Following a year at Western, and having completed an additional ICS course in Commercial Art, Wes went to work as a commercial artist for Mulholland Advertising Company. He moved over to Ingersoll Kalamazoo Division in 1951 and later to Flynn, Thiel, Boutell and Tanis P.C. as a technical illustrator. After a career of more than 40 years, Wes retired in 1992, but chose to continue to work part time and to train other illustrators for another 12 years before finally putting away the drafting tools.

With a shared love of music and dance, Wes and his sweetheart, Alta, fell in love and soon married on January 10, 1948, attending the Broadway production of the musical Brigadoon in New York on their honeymoon. Together on the dance floor, the roller rink, or the ice rink, they were the picture of graceful partnership.

Wes’ love of music, especially the big band and jazz tunes of his youth, inspired a long life of singing. He sang in his church choir, the Portage Senior Center Chorale, and Blendings. Some of Wes’ fondest memories were created in his 25 years singing with his fellow barbershop singers, including 15 years with his quartet “Blue Plate Special.” With a willingness to share his experiences and be of service to his fellow singers, Wes also served as the President of the Barber Shoppers for several years.

Without a doubt, Wes’ favorite music was the raucous symphony created by his family around the home he and several of his friends painstakingly built over five years’ time. The impromptu sounds of his children, Terry, Doug, Wes, and Debi truly reflected his heart’s song. Wes was a proud father, and with Alta at his side, he worked to create a loving home for his family. They even enjoyed volunteering as Scout leaders together. Wes continued his involvement with Scouting into his eighties teaching young scouts out at Camp Rota-Kiwan during the summer.

Not only was Wes an accomplished illustrator, he was also a gifted woodcarver. Always willing and eager to share his gifts, Wes served as a facilitator for the Portage Senior Center wood carving group, was President of the local woodcarvers’ guild and helped design the quilt block for the Senior Center quilts.

He also taught classes such as “Matter of Balance” to seniors at the center and served lunches on Tuesdays with other volunteers. Throughout his many years, Wes generously shared in the fellowship of the American Legion and was a charter member of Westwood United Methodist Church. He sang in the church choir for more than 50 years and even directed the group for two years. Most recently he chaired the church’s Foundation responsible for managing endowments and major gifts to the church.

Wes’ delight in being a father only grew upon welcoming his five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren into his family. In their eyes, he could easily see the spark of his legacy and the bright light of his hopes for the future.

Though deeply saddened when Alta died on Sept 2, 2004, Wes chose to concentrate on his gratitude for their 56 years together and did his best to find joy in each of his remaining days. He liked all kinds of food, especially veggie pizza, and in Alta’s absence had even learned to enjoy cooking. In his later years, he reconnected with high school friend Ida who often accompanied him to concerts and performances from the park to Miller Auditorium.

Two of Wes’ most treasured adventures happened in 2013. First was a trip with Terry and Debi to Connecticut to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the June 2, 1613 birth of his many times great grandfather Nathaniel who, in 1670, was one of the founders of the town of Wallingford. He joked with cousin Peter that it was the best time he’d had in one hundred years (he was eighty-five at the time)!

The second occurred in October of 2013 when Wes had the privilege of being one of the 21 WWII Veterans to participate in Southwest Michigan’s very first Honor Flight. The Talons Out Flight provided Wes and his fellow Veterans with an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. where they visited the WWII memorial and received the honor they so richly deserved.

Ever faithful to the Master Composer, Wes’ life sounded its final fanfare on his 90th birthday, July 21, 2017, in the comforts of the house and home he built. The world is certainly less melodic without the sweet sounds of Wes’ joyful voice and lovely presence. While it is a bit discordant to consider life without his harmony, it affords us deep comfort to know that Wes’ voice has been welcomed into Heaven’s choir.

Wesley Delbert, Merriman Jr. The son of Wesley Sr. and Hope (Bertch) Merriman. Wes was preceded in death by his wife, Alta Merriman in 2004. Surviving are 4 children: Terry (Deb) Merriman, Doug (Nancy) Merriman, Wes Merriman, III and Debi Merriman-Jenkins; 5 grandchildren: Scott (Liz) Merriman, Kim (Craig) O’Rourke, Christina Knight, Christopher (Penny) Merriman and Jennifer (Joe) Graham; granddaughter-in-law, Sharon Merriman; 11 great-grandchildren: Cadence, Elijah, Dylan, Shawn, Daniel, Cali, Javan, Rina, Christopher Jr., Caelan and Jackson; brother, Bertch (Margaret) Merriman and their son, Jeff (Karyn) Merriman and their children: Cami and Joely; many cousins and dear friend, Ida Ballantine. Cremation will take place. Services will be held at 10 am Monday, August 7, 2017, at the Westwood United Methodist Church. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. A luncheon will follow in the church hall. Burial with military honors will be held at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Wes’ personal web page at www.betzlerfuneralhome.com where you can read his story, archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Westwood United Methodist Church Music Ministry or Portage Senior Center. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr. Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900